TSA notices yawns, fidgeting, and whistling at airports now. This is new information released on what the Transportation Security Administration is required to observe in airports. The Intercept obtained some confidential information on what TSA agents are looking for in travelers.
Any small, seemingly trivial, human behaviors put on the TSA list typically reveal when someone is stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable. With that said, this is supposed to be another way for officials to spot terrorists. This program is called the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT). Specially trained officers — Behavior Detection Officers — watch passengers and talk with them as they pass through security.
TSA will look for yawns, restlessness, passengers arriving late, gazing down, wringing of hands, excessive throat clearing, and those who appear to be in disguise. It essentially outlines the traits of suspicious persons.
According to the report, the SPOT procedure has been in place since 2007. A TSA spokesperson declined comment on information gathered by the Intercept, but did release a statement.
“Behavior detection, which is just one element of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to mitigate threats against the traveling public, is vital to TSA’s layered approach to deter, detect and disrupt individuals who pose a threat to aviation.”
A 92-point checklist TSA agents use is divided into different categories. The agency calls it a “common sense approach.”
Their email regarding information on SPOT being released explains that “no single behavior alone” or race will get someone in trouble.
“No single behavior alone will cause a traveler to be referred to additional screening or will result in a call to a law enforcement officer (LEO). Officers are trained and audited to ensure referrals for additional screening are based only on observable behaviors and not race or ethnicity.”
Scientific evidence hasn’t backed up claims that SPOT actually works. It’s controversial since it’s also viewed as giving TSA agents reason to harass passengers and cause delays.
Two former Behavioral Detection Officers, who asked the Intercept not to identify them, don’t believe that the TSA watching for yawns and other behaviors is conducive to business. A Behavioral Detection Office Manager reveals, “The SPOT sheet was designed in such a way that virtually every passenger will exhibit multiple ‘behaviors’ that can be assigned a SPOT sheet value.”
Another says of the TSA watching for yawns and other human behaviors, “The SPOT program is bulls**t. Complete bulls**t.”
[Photo Credit: Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]