You never have to take off your shoes to board an El Al flight

EL AL is the safest airline in the world. Amazing, when you understand that Israeli aviation has been the single most desirable target in the world for terrorists since the 1960s.

Even if the Christmas Day underwear bomber had been able to board an El Al flight, he would have been dead before the passengers knew anything was wrong.

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Israeli Secret Service is responsible for security on El Al Airlines and at Ben Gurion International Airport. They DO use ethnic/racial profiling as well as intense questioning and behavior analysis, which has resulted in an ummatched safety record.

What do the Israelis do that the Americans don’t do? Well, they’ve had sky marshals since the 1960s. And racial profiling.

But the most important question is: Who’s in charge? And the answer may surprise you. “The security in Israel is not like the security in the United States. We have the secret service here, he’s training the people, he send them to work abroad, some working only with El Al, some working with embassies.” El Al security and airport security is not in the hands of El Al or the airport, but in the hands of the secret service. Dror clarifies, “The secret service training the people…”It’s as if the American Secret Service that protects the President of the United States was also running airport security in the United States.

Richard Reid the shoe bomber tried to fly on El Al some years ago. They didn’t like the look of him, so they checked everything in his bags, and everything he was wearing, and then put an armed sky marshal in the seat right next to him. Even the time that he spent in Israel, they knew exactly when he went, where he (had) been, who he meet with.”

“The first thing: Where is your suitcase? You are not going to the United States without any suitcase,” says Dror. “How, where are you going to spend your time? Are you, are you going to sleep naked in the Central Park? What are you going to do over there without suitcase? So, this is the first question and that (will) raise a lot of red lights.”

Israelis have been chasing that kind of information ever since terrorists started blowing up airplanes and shooting El Al pilots. In 1969, one of the country’s first sky marshals, Mordechai Rachamim, became a national hero when he jumped off an El Al plane in Zurich with a handgun to subdue four terrorists who were shooting from the runway with automatic weapons.

There have been no hijackings of Israeli planes in recent years, he says, “because they saw it is impossible to make hijacking.” And Shlomo Dror says that, while there are sky marshals on every flight, they are the last line of defense. If they have to spring into action, it means the security system has failed. Where does the system begin?

“We have a list of names, people who are involved in terrorist action,” he explains, “and, of course, we are checking all the names… We are running them through the computer.” They run every name through. Every person who goes to the airport, they have already checked that name. “The moment that you buy the ticket, we have your name, we have your passport number, and we can check it,” Dror says.

They check you again when you drive to the airport in Tel Aviv. What looks like a tollbooth is actually a security gate. Guards with automatic weapons eyeball everyone. If you drive through too quickly, there’s another guard further down the road. And the rings of security tighten as you arrive.

Before you even enter the terminal, you’ve been through three rings of security. The minute you buy your ticket, your name is sent to Israeli intelligence and to Interpol, so they know quite a bit about you before you even get to the airport. The second ring is a gate with armed guards inspecting your car. The third ring: Men with jackets and sweaters, concealing their weapons, who will watch you come in.

Three checks, and you haven’t even entered the terminal yet – which is where the real security begins.

Security there is a far cry from American airports, like LaGuardia in New York. There is no curbside check-in in Israel. You can’t run to the counter at the last minute, or pay for your ticket in cash, unless you want to be questioned for hours.  READ MORE: CBS NEWS