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Another year, another attempt to blow up innocent people . Years ago it was the shoebomber, now it’s the undie bomber. Tomorrow it might be the armpit bomber or the denture bomber, how about the stomach bomber?

And what is the answer? Let’s take our shoes off, let’s focus on the lists with 500k+ possible suspects and, most importantly, let’s deploy more technology: Body Scanners are the new black even though some people have doubts this new technology even works as promised.

While Dennis Howlett focuses on the combination of internal conflicts and gaps in processes designed to red flag individuals that contributed to failure, I would like to focus on the human factor.

Eons ago, I worked as a Station Manager for United Airlines in London. Right after the Lockerbie disaster, we were tasked to implement profiling into our check-in processes. I was tasked to integrate an Israeli mindset (ICTS, an Israeli company, responsible for the security of all United flights from LHR) with the mindset of US travelers in the early 90’s. What I liked about ICTS was that they didn’t rely on technology when checking passengers/cargo. They relied on the human factor. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose any of their suspicious signs but all of them made sense. Don’t you think it’s bizarre that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab flew to Detroit without any luggage? What is he going to wear in -20 degree weather? Who pays expensive tickets in cash anymore? If so, why? See, the real story behind good security is to integrate the human factor:

If a story doesn’t make sense, let’s try to make sense out of that story. Or search the passenger thoroughly. During my work at United, I encountered thousands and thousands of passengers. Some displayed many suspicious signs. Some only one. It didn’t make a difference. 99% of the signs we could resolve within a minute. The rest we focused on. And, if not resolvable, we searched them. And, I’m talking about real search. Yes, we would have even found a syringe taped to underwear.

Why is that?

Because we didn’t focus on technology and try to start an arms race with people that dedicate their lives killing innocent passengers. We focused on people. We focused on how people would feel and act when they are trying to kill 200 fellow passengers. They are nervous. They display signs. They are different. And we adjusted our model each and every day. We made sure employees get to do different tasks each 15 minutes because they tend to burn out and become less ware of suspicious signs. By discussing individual cases with employees and making daily judgements if we made the right decisions. And adjustments how to deal with tomorrow’s threat. Technology was just an after-thought. Shouldn’t it be always that way?