Body scanners raise questions

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Airports across the US this week are beginning to install a controversial new body scanning device to keep passengers safe. But some question whether the devices are the answer for a host of reasons, from privacy to efficacy. Ronen Attai is the general manager of the Israeli Security Academy just outside Tel Aviv.

MARCO WERMAN: Airports across the U.S. this week are beginning to install a controversial new device to keep passengers safe. One hundred fifty body scanners will be in place by the summer. But some question whether the devices are the answer for a host of reasons from privacy to efficacy. Ronen Attai is the general manager of the Israeli Security Academy, just outside Tel Aviv. His private company trains airport security staff all over the world. And Mr. Attai we've got these scanners this week going into Boston and O'Hare airports in Chicago, and then there'll be more installed over the next few months. Interestingly though, the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, considered one of the safest in the world doesn't have one of these body scanners. Why not?

RONEN ATTAI: Because in Ben Gurion in general we are using a different kind of system. Actually, we're using a concept that built up from five elements that record security and not basing all our security on any kind of technology.

WERMAN: So do you think these scanners will significantly improve airline security in the U.S. then?

ATTAI: I am very happy about any technology coming into the aviation security, but I think this is coming maybe just to fulfill the need of the citizens to see any response of the government for the last incident. But I don't think it will major improve the aviation security in the States.

WERMAN: Alright so you said five main elements in Israel's security program for airlines. What are those five elements?

ATTAI: Actually we start from the intelligence, gathering information before even the passenger comes into the airport. The moment that he buys his ticket, we actually try to analyze a couple of elements. If he buys a one way ticket we ask ourselves why. And of course like you do, we are looking at the list of the people that we don't want to see them on flights and we make sure that this guy cannot pass our gates and come into the airplane.

WERMAN: Don't you think though that, let's take the example of the Nigerian man who tried to blow up a U.S. commercial passenger jet on Christmas Day, if the Amsterdam airport had a full body scan screener, don't you think that he never would have made it on the plane?

ATTAI: Maybe yes, but as you know today explosives or the enemy is very smart and he used the explosive in a very interesting way. As you see, this guy of Nigeria and there is another example that we see here in Israel, not in airport, but in security check points. Suicide bomber, a lady this time, she was using long underwear that was soaked in explosive that melt into the underwear. And the personal detector led her to a side area, she tried to operate her explosive but for our luck this device didn't work.

WERMAN: What about the actual qualitative side of the personnel who work in the Israel airport. One gets a sense here in the United States sometimes that there's a very thin line between the security people and other jobs that they might be doing in the service sector whereas I feel the two times that I've been through the Israel airport that those people are actually probably pretty closely tied to the Secret Service.

ATTAI: Our personnel, we operate in many ways. For example, when you are walking into the airport there is a guard that you see. They are armed and they are looking at you, but when you are inside the airport, there are people undercover searching for your suspicious mark. Maybe extra tense, sweating, or any kind of suspicious sign. And second, we put another people before you come even to check in point, they are using what we are calling profiling.

WERMAN: Mr. Attai you said it yourself, one thing that a lot of critics do hold against the Israeli security system is that it does rely pretty heavily on racial profiling which is something that poses potential civil rights violations here in the United States.

ATTAI: I know and I think this will be one of the major problems if you want to implement our system in your country. But actually, we find it working. Until this moment, as you said, Ben Gurion is one of the most secure airports in the world.

WERMAN: Ronen Attai, general manager of the privately run Israeli Security Academy just outside Tel Aviv, thank you for your time.

ATTAI: Thank you.

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