Mock X-ray depiction of a woman down on her knees, posing for airport screening camera.
TSA behavior detection officers plan to judge passengers by their behaviors. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Charlie J/Flickr)

Child pat-downs and inspecting the adult diaper of a 95-year-old woman have been poisonous for the Transportation Security Administration’s public image. According to Isaac Yeffet, the former head of Israel airport security at El Al, such actions are also “stupid.” TSA has decided to borrow a page from Israel’s playbook and will introduce behavior detection officers who will conduct psychological and physiological profiling of U.S. airline passengers.

Profiling: Coming to an airport near you

Politico suggests that TSA has decided that better airport security techniques are more important than the possibility that someone’s feathers will be ruffled by a little profiling. As early as August, numerous U.S. airports will add behavior detection officers to the payroll, bringing these airports in line with the 161 others that already employ such highly trained security officers, according to TSA Chief John Pistole.

Try talking to them

A key element of the expanded behavior detection program will be conversation. In much the same way that Israeli airport security interacts with passengers in order to discover any of the tell-tale signs of nervousness or other signs of deception, U.S. airports are finally taking the subtle approach. Based upon Israel’s success rate against terrorist incidents at its airports, many experts believe their profiling techniques are effective.

Pistole believes personable discussion can make a difference.

“I’m very much interested in expanding the behavior detection program, upgrading it if you will, in a way that allows us to … have more interaction with a passenger,” he said. “There’s a lot — under that Israeli model — that is obviously very effective.”

Some critics complain that such psychological profiling could easily blur the dividing line between behavior analysis and racial or religious profiling. Other critics are concerned about the extra time such techniques will require. Pistole believes that such techniques will ultimately be beneficial when dealing with children, the elderly and the infirm. Parents will be more involved in the pat-down process when children set off physical alarms. Dealing with the elderly will be more difficult, as many persons on the TSA watch list are older, but the behavior detection officer program will reportedly begin a pilot program to identify regular travelers and expedite the screening process.

‘(TSA) is not security. (It) is a joke.’


Boston Globe:



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