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Left Coast / Right Coast: International Safeguards

Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

Having traveled and lived all over the world, I thought it would be interesting to look at how others outside the US take care (or don’t) of their individual security. Let’s compare those standards to those I’ve personally seen here in the US.

I’ll start with perhaps the most restrictive safeguards I’ve ever encountered. That being leaving the state of Israel. For the record, there has never been a successful hijacking of an outbound Israeli commercial jet. There was a jet hijacked on its way to Israel from London in 1968.

When you are about to depart Ben Gurion Airport in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, you will run into the tightest security anywhere in the world of commercial flight. It starts even before you approach an airline counter. They use facial recognition computer software to do a couple of key things long before you ever get close to boarding an aircraft.

First, your face is compared to a world wide data base of potential threats. If you are flagged by their software, you immediately are approached by Uzi-armed guards and escorted to some back office. There you are interrogated to within an inch of your life.

Assuming you don’t show up in this initial screening, your further investigation continues.

When you get to the counter, you are interviewed by people trained to see the most minute “tells.” 

“tell” is something physical a person does not even know they are doing. It can be a simple flinch, a certain kind of eye movement, or even the exact words one uses in replying to questions.

If for any reason, your interview raises suspicion, again you are escorted to a back room for further questioning.

Things they are especially interested in include:

A. Who packed everything in your luggage? 

B. Were you approached by anyone who knew you were about to take a flight – and asked to carry something for them? 

C. Was your hand luggage ever out of your sight – even for a few seconds?

If a piece of baggage is ever spotted at the airport not in the personal possession of a traveler, it is immediately seized and carted off in a bomb proof container.

Okay, let’s compare these very tight standards to things I’ve personally seen either here in the US or overseas.

I was walking down the harbor front in Hong Kong on its main waterfront street. As I approached a 7-11 store, a young man pulled up in a Ferrari. The man opened the car door, left the car running, and walked into the store. He emerged a minute or two later carrying a six-pack of beer. He got back in the car and drove off.

Now, try that in any major US city and I guarantee the car would not be there when its owner returned.

To this day, I suspect either the young man was a member of the local Yakuza gang, or the local Chinese Tong gang, or he was the son of the Governor of Hong Kong. Otherwise, I simply cannot imagine someone being that casual about such a valuable piece of personal property.

The only thing missing was a big electric sign held over his head saying, “Touch this under penalty of instant death.”

One of my graduate schoolmates in Boston who was from Montana, had only just arrived in the big city of Boston driving a brand new Corvette.

On his second or third day in town, he went outside in the morning to where his car had been parked on the Boston Street the night before. It was not there.

He called the police and a squad car arrived shortly afterward. (Frankly, today, the police probably would not have dispatched a car at all – as so many cars are stolen off the streets of Boston each day.)

The police asked him the following questions:

A. Was the car locked? Answer: “No.

B. Where were the ignition keys? Answer: “In the ignition.”

The interview ended right there.

A day later, the car was recovered in one of the seedier Boston neighborhoods with keys in the ignition and the gas tank empty. The car also needed a new clutch.

About two week’s later, same scenario. My schoolmate's car was gone one morning.

He called the police again and the they asked the same questions (and the police had the earlier police report).

A. Was the car locked? Answer: “No.”

B. Where were the ignition keys? Answer: “Oh, because of what happened two weeks ago, I 'hid' the keys under the driver’s seat.”

This time, my friend was given a very stern lecture about car theft statistics in the city of Boston with a special report on relatively new Corvettes.

As they say, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

My friend traded his “Vette” in for a nondescript four door sedan. And he purchased one of those “crook-locks” that make the steering wheel unable to turn without a key.

So, my friend had finally learned a painful lesson about safeguards in the big city.

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