TSA Lying to the White House? Behavior Detection Officers Not Redeployed to Front Line Screening

The TSA has had employees roaming the airports watching passengers, using their spidey senses to figure out who might be a terrorist. They get a couple of weeks of training — not a graduate degree — and the training isn’t really backed up by any science.

Four years ago the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General concluded that the TSA’s behavior detection efforts didn’t work and racially profiled. The TSA literally has no science in its files to support its efforts.

The ‘checklist’ they use considers criticism of the TSA to be a sign you’re a terrorist.

I’ve argued that the same government agency should not be both regulating security policy and carrying out security screening. That’s one key benefit of using private contractors at the checkpoint. The rest of the world does better with private screeners though at a minimum it seemed that redeploying the TSA’s 2800 Behavior Detection Officers to security checkpoints would be an incremental improvement.

It turns out that the TSA told the White House they did that however it appears that wasn’t true. From the ever-excellent transportation research Bob Poole:

A line in the White House’s “skinny budget” document in March contained the following sentence: “In addition, the Budget reflects TSA’s decision in the summer of 2016 to eliminate the Behavior Detection Officer program, reassigning all those personnel to front line airport security operations.”

…[According to an official of Los Angeles World Airports] [f]ar from being reassigned, he told me that his airport’s BDOs are still doing randomized interactions with people at the airport, but now their focus is on airport and contractor employees, rather than passengers. This is part of something called TSA Playbook, he said, and it’s a national program operating at most airports with TSA presence.

…My conclusion is that the BDO program has not been eliminated, contrary to whatever TSA may have led the new White House team to believe.

Sounds like there are still a ‘few bad apples’ at TSA who in no way reflect the good work thousands of others do to protect our nation day in and day out.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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