Israel, day 2

 - 
02/10/2008
Well, while all of you were taking Sunday off, we had a very busy day today, visiting the Knesset, which is Israel's Parliament, and Jerusalem's central bus station. Here's the quick recap, via video. It's short, and I'm kind of testing out the medium, so give me feedback if you want it longer, more detailed, etc. I think it's nice as a snapshot, and I'm going to give a lot more detail down below. So, I've got pages and pages of notes, but I think you see from that video that the thing I really came away with on my first full day here is how fundamentally differently the Israelis view security. In the United States, for example, we talk about risk assessment and we think we're so scientific in identifying where to put our resources and where threats are going to come from, but when a member of our party asked Yatchko, the Sergeant at Arms for the Knesset, ultimately responsible for the safety of the entire Parliament, how he balanced an event's likelihood and the potential damage it could cause, he almost didn't understand the question. He said, "what's of interest is what can cause the most damage." To him, the probability didn't matter in the slightest. "In life and security," he said, "there are only two possibilities: you either succeed or you explain. I don't want to have to explain." He said you can't afford to be surprised by a low probability event happening, so you must plan for everything and have a deterrent for everything. "Everything is taken into consideration." What baffled him the most was why we in the United States waste so much time on scanning and screening people who are obviously not threats. We got the fundamental underpinning for this later in the day, from Amotz Brandes, the leader of this tour at Chameleon Associates and a former Israeli military man (all boys serve three years in the army; girls serve two years, starting at age 18) and profiler for El Al Airlines. For the Israelis, he said, everything is about profiling, and not the silly racial profiling that Americans are so afraid of. Profiling for the Israelis is a constant process of identifying suspicions and refuting them. If something is suspicious, you start to inquire about it until you discover whether the suspicion can be refuted (the package was actually just left accidentally and is not a bomb) or not (we don't know what's in the package, who it belongs to, or what it might be). If you can't refute a suspicion, it becomes a threat, and threats must be dealt with (call the bomb squad). "Many times in security systems [outside of Israel - meaning in the United States, basically]," Brandes said, "they react to suspicion as if it’s threat, and a threat as if it’s only suspicion. For example, a machine picks up something on the X-ray, which is a suspicion, but that’s not a threat yet. Unfortuantely, they send five cop cars and make it an emergency. They have to first try to refute it. Every officer here is trained to have threat orientation. A guard knows all the methods of operation that apply to them at that time." Meaning, security guards aren't just worried about suspicious people, they're worried about the actual things those people might do. Are they a suicide bomber? Are they a "mule," carrying a bomb without knowing it? Is that person going to rush security with a machine gun or a knife? "I know all of [the methods of operation]," he said, "and all of the correlating suspicion indicators [as a security guard, or security director]. It’s my job to find the indicators and act on them." For the Israelis, it's not about law enforcement and putting people in jail. It's about stopping people from harming other people. And they're practical. While we were at the Jerusalem bus station, where Benny, the security director, took us through his procedures and showed us his central station (which didn't use analytics, but did have megapixel video), he casually mentioned that a military person had just reported a machine gun lost. In the United States, this would have caused panic. Here, it was just something to be concerned about. They knew the most likely scenario is that it had already been ferreted out of the building and would likely be sold to criminals or terrorists. They knew they would have to deal with it later. I'll blog more later about these topics as I visit other installations, but, for now, check out this video. It's a public service announcement that's shown here. It's in Hebrew, so you might not understand all of it, but you'll get the central point. It's teaching little kids to identify suspicious packages and then run away and tell someone about it. Here, everyone helps with security, and they are empowered to know what to do in dangerous situations. Even a little kid can understand that a package can be profiled, recognized as suspicious, and then dealt with. Why can't adult Americans?