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TSA’s $1 billion program to ‘read’ fliers’ expressions comes under fire after failing to catch any bad guys

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Benjamin Carlson
The Daily
May 29, 2012

Wear your heart on your sleeve if you want, but just be careful about showing your emotions when you travel — the Transportation Security Administration is watching.

The nation’s airport security agency has 3,000 employees at 161 airports nationwide trained to identify terrorists simply by reading faces and body language — a glance in a certain direction, a nervous gesture.

American taxpayers have paid dearly for what the TSA called its Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT program: More than $1 billion at 161 airports.

But the record of these behavior-detection officers is disappointing, to say the least: not a single terrorist nabbed. In fact, 16 passengers allegedly tied to terror plots passed 23 times through airports — and not one was picked out of the crowd.

And a federal watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, is warning that SPOT’s miserable record probably won’t get any better, at least any time soon. At a hearing on Capitol Hill last month, the GAO’s Stephen Lord told lawmakers that the TSA has not completely validated the science behind SPOT — or proved that it works in an airport environment — even though the program’s budget has grown 15 percent in five years, from $198 million in fiscal 2009 to a requested $227 million in fiscal 2013.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 7:39 am





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