The TSA has a good thing going. It has a budget of $8 billion a year and guaranteed jobs for 60,000 people — in a down economy, no less. It issues orders and everyone (almost) complies. For those who don’t, there’s always the trump card of DYWTFT (“Do you want to fly today?”). That’s a lot of power. Must be heady.
But with so much money on the line, after so many years, and not a single thwarted attack or caught terrorist to show for it, the TSA has to justify its existence.
The cry of “9/11!” is starting to wear thin.
So you’ll understand if the agency sometimes . . . shall we say . . . embellishes? Exaggerates its, er, accomplishments?
Or perhaps you won’t understand and will just call it what it what it is — lying.
In 2008, the TSA trumpeted its apprehension of a supposed dangerous character named Kevin Christopher Brown in Orlando. Only it turns out he wasn’t a dangerous character, he was simply mentally ill (sort of like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Underwear Bomber — whole ‘nother story).
The TSA claimed Brown was carrying the ingredients for “an explosive device” in his bag. Furthermore, they claimed that their crack team of BDOs (Behavior Detection Officers) in the SPOT program had perceived “micro-expressions” on Brown’s face that alerted them to his nefarious intent.
Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
In fact, Brown was carrying no such thing. But nabbing a guy who’s sweating profusely and acting strangely makes for great headlines, especially for a credulous mainstream media that doesn’t question the TSA’s claims, merely repeats them.
As for the BDO program, the research on which it is based has been discredited. Devised by a retired psychology professor named Paul Ekman, the “micro-expression” theory has never been proven or thoroughly tested. Yet the TSA spends $250 million a year to continue the BDO program.
What do we get for all this money? BDOs who spend 4 days in the classroom and get 24 hours of on-the-job training. Then they question you at the airport and try to determine whether your raised eyebrow is a sign of terrorism or just impatience.
No word on what Paul Ekman has gotten paid.
The War on Terror™ has proven very lucrative for a few people and corporations. Everything from the scanners to the BDOs to the blue groping gloves cost money. Money that you and I are paying.
So next time you go through security, try not to roll your eyes. That might get you put in the slammer, just like Kevin Christopher Brown.
(Photo: Flickr/cordeyï )