TSA Spends $900 Million On “Behavior Detection”; Catches 0 Terrorists

They’d probably say something like, “We’d spend $900 trillion if it meant catching just one terrorist.” They used the same rhetoric when trying to get everyone on board with more federal gun control. “If it saves just one life…”

Like any good government program, a bunch of money is spent (and will continue to be spent) for a stated purpose, and the program ends up being a complete failure. A waste of money. Well, I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Perhaps their real goals are not their stated goals. In which case, it’s a resounding success. Government education comes to mind.

It’s not apparent what the real goal of the TSA’s “behavior detection” program other than to get people more used to being treated like criminals and/or cattle. The only kind of real security they provide is job security for those who hold those positions. Because it’s certainly not doing anything to catch terrorists.

CNS News reported that the TSA has spent $900 million in the past 5 years on the Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program, whereby Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) look out for “suspicious” passengers. According to a GAO report on this particular program, BDOs have to “identify passenger behaviors indicative of stress, fear, or deception” and look out for “high-risk passengers based on behavioral indicators that indicate mal-intent.”

So, if you’re running late for your flight, and you’re nervous that you might miss it, and you’re trying to hurry, you actually just might be a terrorist. You’d be exhibiting signs of “stress and fear.” If you’ve just been groped by a TSA agent, and you have a sour look on your face, you might actually be a “high-risk passenger based on behavioral indicators that indicate mal-intent.” [Indicators that indicate…they could’ve worded that better.]

As you can imagine, a “security” protocol like the SPOT program will result in practically nothing except a bunch of false positives. CNS News reported:

In a statement for the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, Stephen M. Lord, the director of homeland security and justice issues at the GAO, said that in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, for the 49 airports the GAO analyzed, there were 61,000 SPOT referrals, meaning that many passengers apparently displayed “behavioral indicators that indicate mal-intent.”

From that number, 8,700 (13.6%) were referred to a LEO. And from those LEO referrals, 365 (4%) “resulted in an arrest,” said the GAO.

That 4% of 61,000 SPOT referrals is 0.59%. In other words, for the SPOT referrals, 99.41% were not arrested. For the 0.59%, none were arrested for “terrorism.”

So they spend nearly a $1 billion on this “behavior detection” program, and all they have to show for is a bunch of disgruntled passengers, many of whom probably missed their flights.

This is pure security theater. If a terrorist were to attack us, he would find a way to do it, and he’d probably get through security just fine. Especially if enough money was involved. Or, a fellow passenger would alert the police of any real reason to be suspicious like seeing electronic wires protruding out of someone’s shoes. In the past, it’s been passengers or even family members of a would-be terrorist who helped to prevent terrorist attacks. Not security theater agents.