A source alarmed by how the Transportation Security Administration spot suspected terrorists has leaked the agency’s secret list. TSA’s Screening of Passengers by Observations Techniques or SPOT identify terrorists based on seemingly normal anxiety behaviors of passengers before flight. Hence, unnamed sources that include a former TSA manager said the list is ridiculous and just serves as an excuse for officers to harass passengers.
How To SPOT a Terrorist
TSA’s specially trained officers, the Behavior Detection Officers or BDO, observe passengers who go through airport screenings based on the ‘ridiculous’ checklist, which was leaked by a source to The Intercept.
BDO can pull aside a passenger for suspicion of terrorism based on the following behaviors among others:
- Exaggerated yawning
- Excessive complaints about the screening process
- Excessive throat clearing
- Widely open staring eyes
- Wearing improper attire for location
- Whistling as the individual approaches the screening process
- Gazing down
- Exaggerated or repetitive grooming gestures
- Face pale from recent shaving of head
- Rubbing or wringing of hands
‘License to Harass’
According to a source who previously worked as BDO manager for TSA, the list is being used by officers to justify harassing a passenger whom he finds as suspicious.
“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. These are just ‘catch all’ behaviors to justify BDO interaction with a passenger. A license to harass,” the source told The Intercept.
The former BDO manager said the SPOT checklist is not a credible basis for pulling aside a passenger and bringing him to law enforcers.
“The program is flawed and unnecessarily delays and harasses travelers. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent funding real police at TSA checkpoints,” he said.
A second source, who also previously worked as a BDO manager, said the whole TSA’s SPOT program does not have a science or logic behind it.
A spokesperson for TSA told The Intercept that the checklist is just one among many ways the agency is stopping suspicious individuals.
“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 spokesperson wrote in a statement obtained by The Intercept.
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