In the years since 9/11, an increasing number of Americans have criticized the Transportation Security Administration for engaging in invasive and inane methods of identifying potential terrorists. While much of the denunciation is deserved, TSA agents have had success in neutralizing threats.
The same cannot be said, however, of the administration’s Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique – or SPOT – program. Unveiled about six years ago, the program employed a team of about 3,000 behavior detection officers. According to a recent General Accountability Office report, the effort was a major bust that netted zero terrorism arrests since its implementation.
The GAO explains officers in the program were hired to “identify passenger behaviors indicative of stress, fear, or deception,” ultimately flagging suspicious travelers for further screening. Only about one half of one percent of passengers flagged were arrested for any charge whatsoever.
GAO Director of Homeland Security and Justice Stephen Lord concluded the TSA “cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of its behavior detection activities,” adding “available evidence does not support whether behavior indicators can be used to identify threats to aviation security.”
As part of its report, the GAO recommended the TSA “limit future funding for its behavior detection activities.”
Ultimately, the report concludes, the Department of Homeland Security “did not concur with our recommendation.”
Expecting the federal government to quit spending on a program – no matter how ineffective or wasteful – is often a lost cause. Instead, taxpayers are expected to fund a TSA that employs often fruitless security measures while making airport travel even more inconvenient.
The TSA has gained few fans through its system of forcibly invading the most private areas of elderly, adolescent, or handicapped travelers. Apparently for good measure, Americans have now learned the administration squandered close to $1 billion of their money to fund this security boondoggle.
As the holiday travel season continues, airports will be even busier as usual. A combination of hurried, crowded travelers and a largely unaccountable TSA make alternative forms of transportation seem a bit more relaxing in comparison.
B. Christopher Agee, Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Standard Compliant