“SPOT” Checks On Air Passenger Behavior Raise Concerns


U.S. Transportation Security Administration “behavior detection officers” are taking a page from Israeli airport security in about a dozen airports, reports the New York Times. Officials say they want to have hundreds of behavior detection officers trained by the end of next year and deployed at most of the nation's biggest airports. At one airport, passengers singled out solely because of their behavior have been threatened with detention if they did not cooperate, raising constitutional issues that are already being argued in court. Some civil liberties experts said that the program could turn into another version of racial profiling.

Two experts told the Times that the agency's approach puts too little emphasis on the follow-up interview and relies on a behavior-scoring system that is not necessarily applicable to airports. The agency recognizes that the program, Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT, may not yet be perfect. About 50 people stopped by the technique at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., have been turned over to police; half a dozen have faced charges or other law enforcement follow-up, mostly on immigration issues.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/17/washington/17screeners.html?hp&ex=

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