Friday, May 21, 2010

Terrorists Slip Past TSA's Scientifically Untested Behavioral Threat Detection Program

Matthew Harwood writes on Security Management:

At least 17 suspected terrorists have evaded federal officers trained to spot suspicious behavior or signs of deception under an aviation security program the Government Accountability Office (GAO) describes as scientifically unreliable.

The GAO reports [.pdf] that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) deployed the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program "without first validating the scientific basis for identifying suspicious passengers in an airport environment."

Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, seized on the report as one more instance of TSA ineffectiveness and waste. In a letter addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday, Mica urged [.pdf] the secretary "to initiate immediate efforts for the reevaluation and reorganization of the entire TSA, a bureaucracy that has ballooned in size and cost, and... is teetering on the verge of disaster."

Rep. Mica also assailed the SPOT program's effectiveness, noting 17 suspected terrorists moved through eight SPOT airports on at least 24 different occasions. One of those suspected terrorists was the failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, who made it onboard an Emirates flight to Dubai at New York City's JFK Airport despite being on the terrorist watchlist and passing through a security checkpoint where the SPOT program operates. Federal authorities arrested Shahzad onboard the flight before it could take off.

More here.


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