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02/15/2008

From Nazarenes to Bedouins

Unsurprisingly, the morning papers greeted us here with news that Hizbullah has officially declared war on Israel, though nothing seems to have actually changed in terms of attacks—or preparations on the part of the Israelis. They were already under the impression that they were at war. Maybe you didn’t see the footage, but more than a million people turned out to mourn Imad Mughniyeh in the streets of Lebanon, all of them screaming, “Death to Israel.” Regardless of your political persuasions, you have to admit that a demonstration of that kind might make you a bit uneasy if you were an Israeli citizen. [Edit: Note that Israel fights on a number of fronts at once. Here is just one story of the escalating fighting/airstrikes/missile launches in Gaza. There are no winners here. The Israelis suffered a rocket attack that hit a nursery school. They fired back, hitting a school and killing a teacher, since the rockets were launched from the school grounds. I was within five miles of those rocket attacks only two days ago.] Of course, on this last day of our trip here, we traveled up to the Golan Heights, that very strategic high ground in the north that was secured by the Israelis from Syria in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Evidence of the war was all around us, with continuing mine fields and the decrepit hulls of the Syrian's Russian-made tanks left in place as reminders of the victory. There was evidence of progress, too, however, in the form of nearly endless fields of vineyards, where the best wine in all of Israel is made. Our tour guide, a local recruited for some sight-seeing information who actually fought in that war, noted that the Israelis have offered to show the Syrians how to use their old battlefields to make wine, but have thus far been rebuffed. I suppose it is easy for the victors to be so gracious. The Syrians would very much like to have their/Israel’s land back. Since much of the day was concerned with sight-seeing (the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus purportedly walked on water; St. Peter’s old residence, etc.), it’s probably best to just show you the video and then compile here some of my observations for the past week, as I leave on a plane back to the United States tomorrow. Fundamentally, there are some operations tactics and guiding philosophies that the Israelis use that can and should be implemented in private security throughout the United States. Maybe they wouldn’t have prevented the Northern Illinois shooting in the United States, as it’s unclear that a country as large and diverse as the U.S. could ever implement the kind of security they have here, but I think it’s likely that there would be fewer incidents of large-scale violence. Note in the story I'm linking to that they say there were "no red flags." Well, I can assure you there were red flags as he approached the building. Had there been posted guards, no way it happens. The question is whether we could ever have posted guards everywhere on a university grounds. It's highly unlikely. But how did no other student notice him coming in with three handguns and a shotgun? • Circles of security: The Israelis organize their security in concentric circles, as anyone who has been following this blog by now well knows. The reason they don’t have through-put problems at their malls, airports, bus stations, train stations, etc., where they have tighter security than anywhere but some American airports, is that they start screening people far earlier in the process. They screen cars 100 meters or more from the building. They have guards 20 meters away watching people walk in. They have metal detectors outside the doors. By the time you enter the building, you’ve been screened or profiled a number of times and you can basically get to where you want to go quite quickly. • Profiling: We in America need to stop wasting time on people who are clearly not threats. I know it’s considered prudent to expect that anyone could be a terrorist, but if guards are well-trained in looking for suspicion indicators, I think it’s safe to start letting my four-year-old daughter go through the metal detector without taking her shoes off. Let’s be bold enough to say that NOT anyone could be a terrorist. Let’s know in our hearts that my grandmother is not going to blow up a plane. And let me reiterate that profiling has nothing to do with race. Here, the Israelis and the Palestinians are the same race, so race is clearly not necessary as a suspicion indicator. Profiling is about the method of operation and looking for the likely behaviors that would be evidenced by someone looking to do others harm. • Empowering even the lowest member of the organization to make decisions and be decisive: Here, they quite simply expect more of their average security guard than we do. Let’s expect more of ourselves. Let’s train our guards with meaningful seminars on how to spot bad guys and how to manage dangerous situations. Let’s do away with the joke that the TSA is just “welfare in a uniform.” Let’s both respect our security guards and teach them to respect themselves, so that when people come through a security line at the airport they don’t sense that everyone’s just going through the motions. In the military, I’ve been told that the new saying is, “every solider is a sensor.” Let’s make every security guard a sensor. • Using technology for its proper purpose: The Israelis use plenty of very high-end technology, some of which I’m not allowed to outline on a public blog. However, they understand that’s it’s never meant to replace people. For you, the security installers and integrators who are my readers, you’ve got to make sure that your sales people aren’t out there preaching a message of replacement, but one of augmentation. Stay with the mantra that technology can be a force multiplier. That’s true, and if your sales people don’t overpromise, you won’t underperform. • Making security everyone’s obligation: Here in Israel, we’ve seen countless stories of ordinary citizens playing vital roles in stopping suicide bombers. We watched a video at the Jerusalem police station where an ordinary citizen noticed a suspicious guy with a back-pack, jumped out of his car at an intersection, ran up to a police car, pointed at the guy and yelled, “that’s a suicide bomber.” The cop chased him down and prevented him from getting near a crowded shopping mall. Would that happen in the United States? Maybe yes, maybe no. We need to ask more, and expect more, of everyone in our organizations when it comes to security. This is a message security companies need to be preaching to the end users, and end users need to be preaching to their companies as a whole. What more evidence do we need that security is a real concern no matter where you are? Did the shoppers in the Omaha mall expect they’d be gunned down? No, I’m sure they all thought that nothing could happen there. Did the Northern Illinois students walk to class worrying about being killed by gunfire? Of course not. We need to start asking ourselves how these guys are getting so far along without anyone raising questions about them. The Virginia Tech shooter should have been identified long before he acted, by anyone in his college community who cared about the people living around them. Let’s make it okay again to be a little nosey. Along the way, we might even develop a meaningful sense of community that can be translated into recycling, energy-use, and business-efficiency purposes. Let’s rat some people out. • Red teaming, or testing: At the Rambam hospital, security is tested in various ways seven times a day. At the bus station, at least one test happens every shift. At Ben Gurion, they not only test a number of times a day, but they have a running preparedness score that they track via software. And these aren’t pre-packaged drills. They’re honest undercover efforts to breach security. If they succeed, they try to figure out why. If they fail, they are happy. They mostly fail to get contraband in. But when they succeed, it’s not a scandal, it’s a learning opportunity. We need to test our security systems much more often. This is certainly a service that systems integrators could offer on a continuing basis, and it would be a valued one, in my opinion. Not only could you consult with a company beforehand, design a system with their needs in mind, and install something that could multiply their security forces, but you could also service the system after the fact and act as a tester post-installation. That’s RMR and it’s a service that’s not currently be provided by anyone I know of. • Trusting the young: Here, security is largely handled by students, who’ve just graduated from their military service. It’s a part-time job, but they do it well and with honor. Why do all of our students work at Starbucks and Domino’s and not as security guards? Let’s get bright minds and able bodies serving the public good. Let’s get ROTC members working as security guards at the mall and the airport and the hospital. We trust our young people to serve as our soldiers overseas, but we don’t ask enough of them on the home front. Some of these things cost money, it’s true. But many of them are simply a shifting of attention, a change of attitude, and an elimination of cynicism. We can do better, and we have both a model for it and an obligation to it. As members of the security industry, it’s up to you to make it happen. Finally, thanks for reading this week’s posts from Israel. I’ll return to my normal snarky self next week, I’m sure, but please let’s continue some of these conversations when we see each other at the shows and when we talk on the phone. Our next opportunity? TechSec. I’ll see you there.