Fewer than 1% of airline passengers singled out at airports for suspicious behavior are arrested, Transportation Security Administration figures show, raising complaints that too many innocent people are stopped. A TSA program launched in early 2006 that looks for terrorists using a controversial surveillance method has led to more than 160,000 people in airports receiving scrutiny, such as a pat-down search or a brief interview, reports USA Today. That has resulted in 1,266 arrests, often on charges of carrying drugs or fake IDs.
The TSA program trains screeners to become “behavior detection officers” who patrol terminals and checkpoints looking for travelers who act oddly or appear to answer questions suspiciously. Critics say the number of arrests is small and indicates the program is flawed. “That’s an awful lot of people being pulled aside and inconvenienced,” said Carnegie Mellon scientist Stephen Fienberg, who studied the TSA program and other counterterrorism efforts. “I think it’s a sham. We have no evidence it works.” A TSA spokeswoman called the program “incredibly effective.” It has grown from 43 major airports last year to more than 150 airports. The number of behavior officers will jump from 2,470 to 3,400 by October.