Don’t pat down passengers, just talk to them, security expert says

Vancouver Sun

North Americans need to get a lot smarter about counter-intelligence if they truly want to protect themselves.

That’s the view of American-Israeli law professor Amos Guiora, an expert on terrorism and international law who spoke recently in Vancouver.

The former Israeli Defense Forces veteran, who divides his time between Salt Lake City where he teaches at the University of Utah and a home near Jerusalem, lectures U.S. law enforcement agencies and has testified before congressional committees examining anti-terror strategies.

Guiora considers unfettered free speech by domestic religious extremists, “the greatest threat today.”

Liberal democracies, such as Canada, the U.S. and Israel, are loath to put limits on free speech, he says, and they pay the price.

He points to the 1995 assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jew inspired by a right-wing zealot rabbi; and the 2009 killing rampage in Fort Hood, Tex., allegedly by Maj. Nidal Hasan, influenced by a radical U.S.-born imam.

“Domestic terrorism is increasingly the threat. And the question is, will governments be willing to take action proactively against the religious extremists?”

Guiora, who flew 400,000 kilometres last year, also criticizes security practices at western airports.

He has never been patted down or brushed with a security wand at an airport in Israel.

North Americans would be better off focusing efforts on “sophisticated intelligence gathering and analysis, coupled with observing non-verbal behaviour.”

Recalling the so-called underwear bomber last Christmas Eve, Guiora says the case would have been handled differently in Israel.

“No way does that guy get on a plane with a one-way ticket purchased with cash, flying without a coat and no suitcase to Detroit in the middle of winter. You don’t need to touch the guy. Just ask him a series of questions.” [ed – well, it sure helped that the US State Department escorted him onto the plane themselves even without a passport and when he was on the terror watch list.]

His view is seconded by the Israeli think-tank Global Research in International Affairs (Gloria), which last week labelled U.S. airport security “horrendous … a giant, expensive system that achieves almost nothing.”

Gloria Center director Barry Rubin wrote: “Israel cannot afford the U.S. approach because it must have a system that really does stop terrorism, not just fool people into thinking everything’s okay.”

The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration should concentrate attention on “noncitizens who come from certain countries” instead of patting down U.S. citizens with no motive for committing terrorism.

“Does this inconvenience people who may seem to be Muslims, Middle Easterners, excessively nervous, not being able to account for themselves in a logical fashion or having something suspicious in their bags?”

Yes, but the strategy would catch more terrorists.

Guiora, who has researched and written extensively on interrogation of terror suspects, says techniques, again, differ between the U.S. and Israel.

Torture techniques such as waterboarding — likely still practised abroad by American non-military interrogators, he says — is considered unproductive in Israel.

“It is illegal, immoral and, from a practical point of view, ineffective in producing actionable intelligence. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear, which could be far from the truth.”

Guiora believes Israeli interrogations yield useful information more than 80 per cent of the time.

Among techniques that have replaced physical coercion: unpleasant music, adjusting cell temperature, applying a burlap sack to the head, sleep deprivation, confining a suspect to an uncomfortable chair.

Israeli interrogation personnel also have advantages over Americans; they’re fluent in Arabic, know the culture and are fed by sophisticated informant networks in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Israelis will tell you, what interrogation is all about is ultimately gaining control over the other person by psychological means. You never need to lay your hands on the person.

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