'Packages must be ‘profiled,’ just like passengers'

Israeli airport security expert says, "Profiling is the key...who is sending the cargo, what it being sent and where it is going."

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November 1, 2010 02:40
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Profiling of cargo, shippers and a package’s planned destination are key in uncovering terrorist plots involving air cargo, according to one of the founders of Ben-Gurion Airport’s security division.

Israel, a world leader in aviation security, began investing resources in inspecting cargo and passengers back in the 1970s, after experiencing a number of hijackings and aviation-related attacks.

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While based on technology, the Israeli approach has a lot to do with profiling – passengers as well as cargo.

“Profiling is the key,” Pini Schiff, who was one of the founders of the Ben-Gurion security division, said on Sunday. “There are many different elements that need to be looked at – who is sending the cargo, what it being sent and where it is going.”

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) was in touch with authorities in the United States to learn the specifics of the alleged al-Qaida plot to mail powerful bombs from Yemen to Chicago-area synagogues. Officials said that there would likely not be any changes in Israeli airport security, which is always on heightened alert.

Israeli officials would not comment on how cargo is inspected. But in addition to profiling, the Airports Authority uses a number of systems, including pressurized containers, in which packages are placed to see if they will explode in conditions similar to those on an airplane.

“What happened over the weekend is a reminder that we need to be vigilant 24/7,” Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, at the opening of a Homeland Security conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday night.



“Israel is known around the world as a country which develops advanced technology for dealing with terror threats to airports, train systems and other means of transportation,” he said.

According to Schiff, US authorities have to decide if they will, in the future, allow packages to be sent from Yemen and other countries with a strong terrorist presence to the US without inspection by American officials.

Cargo is supposed to be checked at the point of origin, but it is questionable if security agencies in a country like Yemen can be trusted.

Schiff also said that due to competition among cargo companies, it was possible that the speed of the shipment and the quality of the service would come at the expense of the required security inspections.

“First, the US needs to review the type of inspections that are done in Yemen,” Schiff said. “There is also another element and that is the competition – which company can deliver a package faster. This can affect the security.”

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