TSA Blows Cash on Unproven Terrorist-Detection Scheme, Says Government Report

Fortune tellerTransportation Security
Administration agents aren’t so good as they might claim at honing
their spidey senses to detect would-de doers of evil deeds. And
they’re persistently not good, expending time and
money—lots of money—on a behavioral indicators program that has
never shown much promise for heading off terrorists. That’s the
word from just the latest Government Accountability Office report
to give a big bronx cheer to the Screening of Passengers by
Observation Techniques (SPOT) program, which the TSA has pursued in
the total absence of any promising evidence of success, or even of
a decent plan for gathering such evidence, in its quest for a
magical way to do its job. Just stop, says the GAO.

Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection
(PDF), the authors write:

Available evidence does not support whether behavioral
indicators, which are used in the Transportation Security
Administration’s (TSA) Screening of Passengers by Observation
Techniques (SPOT) program, can be used to identify persons who may
pose a risk to aviation security. GAO reviewed four meta-analyses
(reviews that analyze other studies and synthesize their findings)
that included over 400 studies from the past 60 years and found
that the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior
based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better
than chance. Further, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS)
April 2011 study conducted to validate SPOT’s behavioral indicators
did not demonstrate their effectiveness because of study
limitations, including the use of unreliable data.

Translation: Not only has the TSA offered no evidence that this
approach works, nobody has ever found any support for the

So, what should the folks tasked with poking and prodding us at
the nation’s airports, all for our own good, we’re told, do?

Until TSA can provide scientifically validated evidence
demonstrating that behavioral indicators can be used to identify
passengers who may pose a threat to aviation security, the agency
risks funding activities that have not been determined to be

That’s sad news for the roughly 3,000 behavior detection
officers the TSA deploys at airports around the United States to
engage in what the GAO concludes is essentially voodoo. That’s
voodoo at an annual cost of about $200 million, and a cost to date
of $900 million since 2007.

Note that this is not the first time the GAO has called out the
TSA for putting lots of resources into unproven behavior detection
schemes. Reports in
2010 and 2012
also slammed the uniformed crotch-fondlers for
deploying SPOT “without first validating the scientific basis for
identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment.”

The earlier GAO reports also took the TSA to task for not
investigating the reliability of other programs, such as biometric
identification cards for controlling access to sensitive port
facilities, and for purchasing expensive equipment and then leaving
it to gather dust.

But the TSA has mastered sullen groping, as we all

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/14/tsa-blows-cash-on-failed-terrorist-detec

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.