Watchdog: TSA Lacks Evidence to Justify Behavior Detection Patrols


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in charge of passenger screening at nearly all commercial U.S. airports, has little evidence to justify its behavior detection patrols and activities, a blunt, non-partisan government watchdog has found.

The 16-page Government Accountability Office report concluded that TSA “does not have valid evidence” that three-fourths of TSA’s behavior indicators employed by “thousands” of behavior detection officers over the past decade can actually identify passengers “who may post a threat to aviation security.”

In fact, 98% of the sources TSA cited to support its list of methods do not provide valid evidence, either, the GAO wrote.

The GAO began the study at the request of Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), who both sit on the House Homeland Security Committee.

In a statement to USA TODAY, Rep. Thompson had harsh words for the TSA.

“After pressing TSA for years to provide scientific justification for its billion dollar behavior detection program, it is ridiculous that TSA provided little more than news articles and opinion pieces,” Thompson said.

“It is clear, yet again, that Congress should cut funding for this troubled program, which is known more for racial and ethnic profiling than detecting terrorist activity.”

In information provided to The Voyage Report, the TSA acknowledged that “academic studies do not yet provide sufficient validation for certain behavioral detection techniques.”

But the agency said it is “continually working to improve” and that it uses “common sense indicators” and “real-world examples of success that TSA cannot reasonably ignore.”

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Source: The Voyage Report