The Transportation Security Administration thinks it has found a high-tech way to measure the "hostile intent" of airline passengers up to no good.
An Israeli company has developed a "security booth," where a passenger puts his hand onto a sensor to measure blood pressure, pulse and perspiration, a computer looks at these biometric readings to tip the cops to a suspect, and cops swoop in.
But who needs a machine? The on-again, off-again security measures arrive at the airport two hours before departure, take off your shoes, submit to wandering hands looking for suspicious bulges in your pants are guaranteed to encourage "hostile intent" in even the blue-haired Lutheran grannies of Minnesota.
The governments of the West are turning themselves inside out to detect and capture Islamic fascists without offending Islamic innocents. The British the other day even refused to accept the passport photograph of a 5-year-old girl lest the sight of her bare shoulders excite the lust of Muslim immigration officers. But five years on, public patience is wearing thin, and even George W. Bush is finally calling the terrorists by their right name. This angers King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and frightens ACLU fundraisers, who fret that it will make it harder to separate conspiracy freaks, who see something sinister in every church steeple, from their money. But maybe it means our own government is finally getting wise to the jihadists.
The idea behind the developing technology, Shabtai Shoval, chief executive of Suspect Detection Systems, tells the Wall Street Journal, is to measure instinctive human physical responses to reveal the grim terrorist game: "What we are looking for are patterns of behavior that indicate something all terrorists have: the fear of being caught." Far better to die in the pursuit of wholesale death and collect his 72 virgins than for a terrorist to fail Allah before he can kill Christians and Jews.
The early tests are encouraging, but not spectacular. A machine can only say so much, and then TSA agents have to take over in a game of "30 Questions" with suspect passengers. Once the human element comes into play, mechanical inevitability is cast aside. Man still defeats Machine most of the time.
Actually capturing bad guys is difficult because the airport cops are bound by the constraints of political correctness. The machine's software program is based on human behavior and attributes, "so the machine is not vulnerable to racial profiling." Once a human starts questioning a suspect, his civil rights might be infringed before he kills.
Something better is clearly needed, something more attuned to the sensibilities of the ACLU, which has never met a criminal it couldn't learn to like. We must find a way to turn perverted religious belief against the Islamic fascists who, we are often told, do not speak for the Muslim masses.
Why not, for example, an all-pork, all-the-time airline, with its Boeings emblazoned with a ferocious razorback on the tail assembly? Each cabin would be equipped with a small, elegantly designed pig pen somewhere among the first-class seats, accommodating an endearing baby porker. This would play to the Islamist terror of dying in a crash and arriving in paradise festooned with juicy pig entrails. Would a jihadist warrior expect to greet a virgin with tasty infidel barbecue on his breath?
Even a more modest employment of the noble pig could make a lot of expensive, infuriating airport security unnecessary. The airlines could replace inedible airline food with offering a choice of ham or bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches or matzoh ball soup for Jewish passengers who would get the joke but nevertheless wish to keep kosher in the friendly skies. This would send devout jihadists fleeing to alternative transportation on their way to assignations with violent death.
The new Israeli technology, on the other hand, isn't ready for prime time. In a trial run with play-acting "terrorists," the software caught only 85 percent of the actors, and another 8 percent of the innocent passengers were detained by security agents. The company's goal is to catch 90 percent of the bad guys, meaning every tenth terrorist could count on making it through the security net. That's not very good. A pig would do better.