Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Transportation Security Administration's 92-point checklist: Released publicly for the first time

""The Transportation Security Administration's 92-point checklist it uses to identify terrorists based on suspicious behaviors was released publicly for the first time by The Intercept on Friday.
A passenger whose face turns flush due to intrusive screening procedures, or who demonstrates "contempt for the screening process" might just be a terrorist. Also be sure not to arrive late for a flight with a confused look on your face or emit a "cold, penetrating stare." And by all means, definitely do not yawn too much.
These are just a few of the suspicious signals the TSA has spent $1 billion training its "behavior detection officers" to look for as part of its Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. First introduced in 2007, TSA officials are trained to observe passengers in airport screening areas to detect behaviors the TSA associates with stress, fear or deception.
Each time an agent identifies a stress factor, one point is added to that passenger's tally. Fear factors get two points and deception factors get three points. Four points is enough for the passenger to be referred for additional screening.
Notable stress factors include whistling, strong body odor, a pale face "from recent shaving of beard," avoiding eye contact with security personnel and an "obvious 'Adams Apple' jump."
The agency says fear factors include "exaggerated, repetitive grooming gestures," "wearing improper attire for location," "constantly looking at other travelers" or "widely open staring eyes."
As for deception factors, the agency looks for individuals who appear to "be confused or disoriented" or "ask security-related questions."
Agents are instructed to deduct points if the passenger in question appears to be married, a woman over 55 or a man over 65.
The SPOT program's scientific integrity has faced criticism not only from independent scientists, according to Nature, but also from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspector general.
In 2010, the GAO found that the "TSA deployed SPOT nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior detection and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports." It added that SPOT's success rate is "the same as or slightly better than chance."
In a 2013 report, the GAO recommended that the DHS "limit future funding support for the agency's behavior detection activities until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence that demonstrates that behavioral indicators can be used to identify passengers who may pose a threat to aviation security." The agency said it disagreed with that assessment.
The DHS inspector general found in 2013 that the TSA "cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program's expansion.""

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