Juval Aviv’s exploits as an Israeli counterterrorism agent are widely believed to be the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film “Munich.” After wrapping up his career as a major in the Israel Defense Forces (and reportedly working for the secretive Mossad), Aviv launched a lucrative career as a security consultant and investigator.
His Interfor corporate intelligence firm was hired by Pan Am to investigate the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. After setting up shop in Manhattan, Aviv wrote Staying Safe, a book focusing on how individuals, business entities and families can protect themselves from criminals and terrorists.
In an interview with The Jewish Press, Aviv spoke of the security challenges facing the U.S.
The Jewish Press: Is it really possible to prevent an in-flight terrorist episode in the U.S., considering the size of many major American airports?
Aviv: I don’t believe it is possible to prevent an in-flight episode in the U.S. from ever happening. Terrorists will always be working on new ways to get around whatever security measures are put into place. However, as we have seen numerous times since 9/11, if someone does try something while a plane is in flight, the passengers will fight back, making it very difficult for terrorists to succeed even if they do manage to make it on board a plane with some sort of weapon.
Is another 9/11 or Detroit episode inevitable?
I don’t know about another 9/11, but another attempt to take down an airplane is very likely. Again, whether such an attempt would be successful is another question.
Why has profiling and other security measures worked so well at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, but not so well elsewhere?
The methods used by terrorists are constantly evolving. Many security measures that have been put into place since 9/11 in the U.S. and other countries were in response to specific threat scenarios. These scenarios may not occur again and terrorists will always be coming up with ways to work around whatever new measures are put into place. Also, some of the measures are often randomly and erratically enforced, because to do so for every person traveling through the airport would take too much time.
Behavioral profiling works [at Ben Gurion] because it looks for factors [other than what] an actual weapon or method of attack might be. Someone who is planning to kill a large number of people and probably themselves in the process is going to be nervous, highly agitated. There are certain behaviors that security personnel can be trained to recognize. Ultimately this will be more successful than forcing travelers to remove their shoes or randomly searching the carry-on luggage of old ladies.
Did the Israeli security firm hired at Amsterdam/Schipol Airport fail, or was it the entire system?
This was a systemic failure. There were many warning signs along the way that should have been picked up. The most simple was the fact that someone traveling from Yemen, a terrorism hot-spot, to the U.S. on a one way, cash-paid ticket with no checked baggage should have been thoroughly screened. Regardless of the warning from the suspect’s father, those factors were more than enough red flags to mark this person as a potential threat.
Do you agree with those who say U.S. Homeland Security is hopelessly flawed due to politics, rivalries and ineptness?
I think politics, rivalries and ineptness contribute to the flaws that currently plague U.S. Homeland Security, but I do not believe the situation is hopeless. The United States has had very few incidents of terrorism, either domestic or foreign in origin, in the entire history of the country. The situation this country is facing is relatively new. U.S. Homeland Security has a lot of catching up to do, but I believe they are doing many things right. Since 9/11 numerous terrorist threats have been discovered and stopped.
Will the growing number of Israeli hi-tech security start-ups turn Israel into a global security superpower?
I think Israel has a well-deserved reputation for security expertise and that any security firm coming out of Israel would automatically have a certain cach?. Israeli firms are at the forefront of new security technologies so the possibility of Israel becoming a superpower in the security industry is definitely a strong one.
How does your company assist American businesses, governments, etc.?
Interfor is a corporate intelligence and physical security consulting firm that provides investigative and security services for Fortune 500 companies, major law firms as well as state and federal agencies and international governments.