Here’s the Secret Criteria the TSA Uses to Spot Terrorists
Policy + Politics

Here’s the Secret Criteria the TSA Uses to Spot Terrorists

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Attention travelers: The next time you’re stuck in the airport security line, it would probably be wise to avoid excessive yawning, whistling or throat clearing. 

Those are apparently suspicious behaviors Transportation Security Administration agents are watching for when trying to scope out potential terrorists. That’s according to the agency’s secret terrorist-spotting checklist, which was first obtained and published by The Intercept on Friday. 

Related: Report Says TSA Wasted $1 Billion on Screening Program

 Signs You Might Be a Terrorist

(Source The Intercept

This is the first look inside the TSA’s controversial $1 billion terrorist spotting program, called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The program has faced serious scrutiny from federal auditors, lawmakers and civil rights groups that question its effectiveness, as well as whether it results in racial profiling. 

Just last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the TSA for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request asking for more details on the program. 

SPOT, which started in 2007, was intended to ferret out potentially dangerous passengers based on how they’re behaving. TSA trains its agents — or “behavior detection officers” — to spot people acting suspiciously and send them for additional screenings, pat-downs and questioning. However, since the TSA has provided very little information on the program, there’s little evidence to prove that it actually works. 

Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that it was impossible to know how effective the program is, despite costing more than $1 billion since its creation. "Consequently, after 10 years of implementing and testing the SPOT program, TSA cannot demonstrate that the agency's behavior detection activities can reliably and effectively identify high-risk passengers who may pose a threat to the U.S. aviation system," the GAO report said. 

Related: 10 Outrageous Items Confiscated by the TSA in 2014 

Separately, the program has been accused of resulting in racial profiling. Two years ago, TSA officers at Boston’s Logan airport revealed that other agents were intentionally targeting Hispanics, blacks and people of Middle Eastern origin. 

The TSA, for its part, says the officers are only told to be on the lookout for certain behaviors, and the agency claims to have taken steps to prevent its officers from engaging in racial profiling. 

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