Privacy SOS

Some 3,000 “behavior detection” officers have been deployed in at least 160 US airports in a TSA program called SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques). They are supposed to monitor suspicious body language and spot terrorists in a program costing $200 million annually.

Over the last few years, approximately 160,000 people have been interviewed or searched by the SPOT teams, and hundreds arrested – mainly for drug offenses. Not a single terrorist had been spotted.  The GAO reported that at least 16 people involved in terrorist plots had passed through airports during that time.

According to critics, the program is not just ineffective. Behavior detection is often just another term for racial and ethnic profiling, since ethic minorities are more likely to be singled out if they appear to be upset or nervous.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.