Airport security uses talk as tactic

USA TODAY | December 28, 2005
By Thomas Frank

Don't Look Too Suspicious:
Body Language Enough to Mark You As A Terrorist

The Transportation Security Administration plans to train screeners at 40 major airports next year to pick out possible terrorists by engaging travelers in a casual conversation to detect whether a person appears nervous or evasive and needs extra scrutiny.

The new security technique, already in use at some airports, adds a psychological dimension to screening by trying to find high-risk passengers based on how they act at checkpoints or boarding gates. (Related story: Body language can blow suspects' cover)

Passengers who raise suspicions will undergo extra physical screening and could face police questioning.

Airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit and Miami recently began using the technique.

Some airport and transit police already look for people acting oddly — such as wearing a heavy coat in the summer or appearing to be doing surveillance — and question them about travel plans.

Among agencies trained in behavior detection:

* Airport police in Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul

* Transit police and workers in New York City, Washington

* U.S. Park Police in New York City (Statue of Liberty)

* New York police counterterrorism bureau in New York City

* Transportation Security Administration screeners in Boston; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Warwick, R.I.; Portland and Bangor, Maine

Source: USA TODAY research

"I don't want (officers) just sitting there waiting for a call to come in. I want them observing people, observing their behavior and engaging them in conversation. They're looking for people whose activities don't look right," says Alvy Dodson, public safety director at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Last year, 70% of DFW's 167 airport police were trained in the program.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the technique leads to racial profiling and has sued to stop a behavior-screening program run by the Massachusetts State Police at Boston's Logan International Airport. That program, the first at a U.S. airport when it began in 2002, was challenged last year after a black ACLU official said he was questioned and threatened with arrest if he didn't show identification.

"If you're going to allow police to make searches, question people and even make arrests based on criteria rather than actual evidence of criminality, you're going to have racial profiling," says Barry Steinhardt, a privacy law specialist at the ACLU.

Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Peter DiDomenica calls the program "an antidote to racial profiling" that focuses on "objective behavioral characteristics." He says the program has curbed racial profiling "because we've educated people."

Behavior detection is routine in security-conscious countries such as Israel, where air travelers routinely face aggressive questioning.

U.S. Customs officers have long asked arriving travelers questions, often in random order. If a person gives "stumbling answers," that could indicate the person has fraudulent travel documents or plans to overstay a visa, says Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kelly Klundt.

The TSA also began using behavior detection at Logan in 2003 and last year at airports in Warwick, R.I., and Portland, Maine. Mass transit systems in New York City and Washington adopted the technique after train bombings in Madrid and London.

Concerns about racial profiling have meant "there's been a lot of reluctance in TSA to expand this," says George Naccara, TSA security director at Logan.

Naccara says he persuaded TSA chief Kip Hawley to try behavior detection at numerous high-risk airports. "It's another effective layer of security which is relatively cheap," Naccara says.


Comment from webservant of

Wake up everybody! Why are the churches silent?  I keep hearing Christians saying foolish things like "Satan must run his course," others just calling me a "nut" or an "embarrassment" to Christianity. What is it going to take to wake people up, a militarized police state where preachers will be imprisoned for propagating hate speech, for preaching the Bible against homosexuality and sin? What will it take? Are you just going to hand over your firearms to the government, a violation of your 2nd Amendment Bill of Rights? Already, Anti-hate speech legislation has been passed in Canada and is now before congress here in America. Folks, freedom isn't free. And by the way, Democracy is NOT FreedomYou need to believe some of the things you hear.

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“The high office of the President has been used to foment a plot to destroy the American's freedom and before I leave office, I must inform the citizens of this plight.”

— President John Fitzgerald Kennedy - In a speech made to Columbia University on Nov. 12, 1963, ten days before his assassination!

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  Senator Daniel K. Inouye, during the Iran Contra Hearings and former chair, U.S. Senate MKULTRA-era hearings in 1977

It took the deaths of millions of people to secure our freedoms in America, but it only took the death of 2,7521 people on 911 to surrender our rights to the New World Order.