TSA greeters in Boston draw Thompson's ire
A Transportation Security Administration pilot program begun Aug. 15, which attempts to detect potential malefactors through "specialized behavioral analysis techniques"--drawing passengers into conversation--has drawn the ire of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).
Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, sent an Aug. 12 letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole decrying agency's expansion of observational technique measures without first having any scientific basis for knowing their efficacy.
The Logan pilot requires TSA officials to impart a "casual greeting" to all passengers at security checkpoints and evaluate passenger responses according to the "specialized training in interviewing methods" they received, the TSA says. If the casual conversation responses provoke the suspicion of the official, the passenger will be sent to a second TSA officer for another conversation (presumably a less casual one) to determine if additional screening is needed.
TSA has already deployed a related effort known as the Screening Passengers by Observation Technique program, which deploys "behavioral detection officers" to airports in search of suspicious activity. The Government Accountability Office has noted that behavior and appearance indicators lack scientific proof as a reliable method for identifying passengers who pose a potential risk to aviation security.
"It appears that TSA is 'doubling down' by using the SPOT model as the basis of another scientifically unproven technique which would require grater personal interaction with passengers," Thompson said in his letter.
Behavioral detection techniques at airports has resulted in apparent racial profiling at the Newark airport over a 2-year period, Thompson noted.
- download Thompson's Aug. 12 letter (.pdf)
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