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Israeli airport gives rare glimpse into security

An unmanned vehicle helps secure the runway at Ben Gurion air port near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Senior Israeli airport official Nahum Liss said Tuesday screening procedures at airports around the world are inadequate, calling Israel's heavily fortified international airport the best protected in the world. An unmanned vehicle helps secure the runway at Ben Gurion air port near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Senior Israeli airport official Nahum Liss said Tuesday screening procedures at airports around the world are inadequate, calling Israel's heavily fortified international airport the best protected in the world. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
By Daniel Estrin
Associated Press / November 2, 2010

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BEN-GURION AIRPORT, Israel—Airport security around the world isn't good enough, an Israeli airport official said Tuesday while showing international experts Israel's near-legendary methods as a possible solution.

Israel, which prides itself on airport and airplane security, showed off robots and procedures to keep passengers safe. One method has been condemned in other countries -- profiling.

Nahum Liss of the Israeli Airports Authority said Israel's heavily fortified international airport is the most protected in the world, speaking as authorities on three continents were investigating cargo bombs intercepted at airports last week in Britain and Dubai.

A confident Liss told about 50 visiting security experts that security procedures at Ben-Gurion International Airport "are built in order to confront this kind of threat."

Israel is known for its stringent airport security, the result of a string of Palestinian attacks on Israeli planes in the 1970s.

Before approaching the ticket counter, passengers are thoroughly questioned by "selectors" who look for travelers who match a suspicious profile.

"In the U.S., profiling is a bad word," Liss said, but he defended the practice, saying it is done by "intelligent, motivated" university students who served in Israel's military and can identify passengers who could pose a potential risk.

Liss said that heightened screening of passengers and carry-on luggage in international airports has pushed terror organizations to look for other vulnerable areas to attack at airports. He said many of the world's airports do not properly secure their perimeters.

"We need to protect our back door as well," said Liss, offering a look at an advanced technique the Israelis are working on.

The visitors, including experts from the U.S. and Europe, watched as security officers staged a live simulation, stopping three armed "terrorists" who broke through a rear gate.

Then they observed an unmanned vehicle patrolling the airport perimeter by remote control -- a technology soon to be introduced at the Israeli airport.

Routine security procedures start far away from the terminal.

Before even entering the airport, all cars are stopped for a security check by armed guards. Cameras scan license plates to match them with a database of suspicious vehicles. Security officials said it's one of the many security filters passengers pass before boarding flights, some of them unknown to the passengers and many others still kept secret.

The Israeli airport's spokesman's unit said the main terminal is equipped with 700 closed-circuit cameras and is fortified against explosions. The large glass wall at the front and even the trash cans inside are bombproof, they said.

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