As readers of this blog know, I have not been a fan of the TSA’s ever-expanding use of questionable technology and procedures to try to screen out threats to the United States’ Air Transportation System.
As we know, the enhanced scanners and invasive pat-downs have resulted in more complaints than catching people wishing to do harm. Screeners also have a bad habit of “randomly” selecting those who are least likely a threat.
Now, after years of people screaming for change, the TSA appears to have started evaluating using a procedure that is known to work, and results in significantly fewer false positives than the processes in place today.
On August 2nd, the TSA began a pilot at Terminal A of Boston’s Logan International Airport to screen passenger behavior. It involves a trained “Behavior Detection Officer” who will be speaking with travelers while validating boarding pass and identification.
The conversation will be routine questions, like where they are traveling to, what they were doing in Boston, and if they’re traveling on business. The officer will watch the traveler as they respond to these questions, observing body language and how they respond. Those that the officer suspects of deception or other suspicious behavior will be selected for further screening.
If this all sounds familiar, it should be. This is the same procedure that the Israeli’s have used for a couple of decades. Israel’s El-Al airlines has been one of the most security conscious airlines in the world, ever since a hijacking occurred in 1968. Likewise, the volatility of the region means that they are under constant threat of terrorism, so they have learned to vigilant.
This is why, if the TSA can carry out the process and procedures correctly, it could spell the end of the constant cat and mouse game of trying to stay one step ahead of those who mean us harm.
Of course there will be pundits who will consider the actions as racial or ethnic profiling. They are far from the truth. If they ask the same type of questions to every person or group passing through the checkpoint, except for those who have passed in-depth background screenings (i.e. airline and airport employees as well as registered travelers), then this shouldn’t be an issue.
Hopefully once this technique is proven to work here, we can see the end of the invasive pat-downs, and the body scanners move behind the metal detectors to do secondary screenings for passengers who alarm the metal detector as well as those suspicious passengers.
Let’s hope whomever woke up at the TSA stays awake and doesn’t allow this procedure to become corrupted.