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TSA’s airport profiling process under scrutiny

Nov. 14, 2013, Washington, D.C. - A federal probe of a Transportation Security Administration program to screen suspicious behaviour of passengers at airports suggests the effort, which has cost almost $1 billion since 2007, has not been proven effective, according to a report released Wednesday.


November 14, 2013
By The Associated Press

The Government Accountability Office said its investigation found
that the results of the TSA program — called Screening of Passengers by
Observation Techniques — were "no better than chance." Under the
program, agents identify suspicious looking people and talk to them to
determine whether they pose a threat. The investigators looked at the
screening program at four airports, chosen on the basis of size and
other factors.

 

"TSA has yet to
empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the program despite
spending about $900 million on it since 2007," said Steve Lord, who
directed the investigation for the GAO. He said the GAO, which is the
research and investigative arm of Congress, "conducts active oversight
of the TSA for the Congress given their multibillion-dollar budget." He
said "the behaviour detection program is viewed as a key layer of
aviation security."

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The investigation found that behaviour
detection officers at the four airports said some behavioural indicators
they used were "subjective." The report said the TSA is still
collecting evidence on the screening program but has indicated it needs
more time to determine the program's effectiveness.

 

Both Republican and
Democratic lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee said the
report raises serious questions about the screening program.

 

"While I believe there is value in
utilizing behaviour detection and analysis in the aviation environment,
especially since it is used successfully by law enforcement, we can only
support programs that are proven effective," said Rep. Mike McCaul
(R-Texas) the committee's chairman.

 

The leading Democrat on the committee also voiced concerns.

 

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the
GAO report found that the "program is fundamentally flawed, cannot be
proven effective and should no longer be funded with taxpayer dollars."

 

Committee members will consider the report's findings at a subcommittee hearing Thursday.