Friday, November 15, 2013

See SPOT ... what, exactly?

See SPOT ... what, exactly?  Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) is the TSA's program that attempts to spot terrorists by observing people's behavior.  They look for “tells” that a terrorist would unconsciously display.  Anyone who's traveled to (especially) Israel or (to a lesser extent) the U.K. is familiar with how those countries have implemented this idea.  They have a trained interrogator asking you questions like “Where are you staying?” and “What do you hope will happen when you meet with Mr. X?”  The questions sound innocent enough, and generally are – the agents are watching how you react to them.  The TSA's implementation is quite different – they just have passive observers who have been trained to spot alleged “tells”.

The GSA just completed a study of SPOT, and said: “TSA has not demonstrated that [behavior-detection officers] can consistently interpret the SPOT behavioral indicators.  The subjectivity of the SPOT behavioral indicators and variation in BDO referral rates raise questions about the continued use of behavior indicators for detecting passengers who might pose a risk to aviation security.”

The TSA, naturally, defends SPOT.  They've so far spent over $100 million taxpayer dollars on it, and it employs 2,800 people.  The TSA refuses to day what the results from SPOT have been.  We don't know if SPOT has ever identified even a single terrorist.

What to do about airport security?  I have a plan, but I know it would never fly politically.  I bet it would work, though :)  My plan: fire everyone in the TSA, dismantle the agency completely, and outsource the whole thing to the Israelis.  They have said, publicly, that the TSA costs more than 20 times what it would cost them to do it – and you'll note that even though El Al (the Israeli airline) is a highly desirable target of just about every terrorist group, they have an extremely good record of safety.  Better than U.S. airlines, post 9/11...

No comments:

Post a Comment