Readers of TSA News know that we’ve been pointing out the fraud of the TSA’s so-called “behavior detection” program for years. Just a few examples: here, here, here, and here. Well, now the New York Times is finally catching on.
The Government Accountability Office told Congress in November that T.S.A. employees could not reliably single out dangerous passengers and that the program was ineffective. In its review of 49 airports in 2011 and 2012, the G.A.O. calculated that behavior-detection officers designated passengers for additional screening on 61,000 occasions. From that group, 8,700, or 14 percent, were referred to law enforcement. Only 4 percent of the 8,700, or 0.6 percent of the total, were arrested — none for suspected terrorism. (The T.S.A. said the Federal Air Marshal Service earmarked certain cases for further investigation, but could not provide the G.A.O. with details.) The G.A.O. attributed these poor results to a general “absence of scientifically validated evidence” for training T.S.A. employees in the dark art of behavior detection, and urged Congress to limit future funding.
This comes on the heels of another deeply critical article in the Times last month:
The Transportation Security Administration has spent some $1 billion training thousands of “behavior detection officers” to look for facial expressions and other nonverbal clues that would identify terrorists. But critics say there’s no evidence that these efforts have stopped a single terrorist or accomplished much beyond inconveniencing tens of thousands of passengers a year. The T.S.A. seems to have fallen for a classic form of self-deception: the belief that you can read liars’ minds by watching their bodies.
There’s a reason that so-called lie detector tests are inadmissible in court: the entire premise is junk science. A skilled liar can calmly produce body language and behavior consistent with truthfulness, just as a perfectly innocent but flustered and nervous person — such as someone running to catch a flight after being held up in an hour-long security line — might come across as deceitful and untruthful.
In fact, when it comes to detecting deception, trying to decode a person’s body language, eye movements, and voice inflection — as the TSA has been pretending to do, wasting our time and money in airports across the nation — is even less reliable than chance. The TSA has just spent over a billion of our tax dollars only to find out that Pinocchio’s nose is make-believe.
And if you go by what John Pistole is saying, there’s no end in sight. That billion is just the beginning.