TSA Deploys SPOT at 40 Major Airports to Sniff Out Security Threats

The Transportation Security Administration is currently making use of the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program at major airports. SPOT utilizes non-intrusive behavior observation and analysis techniques to identify potentially high-risk passengers. SPOT is designed to detect individuals exhibiting behaviors that indicate they may be a threat to aviation and/or other transportation security. The program is a derivative of successful behavioral analysis programs employed by law enforcement/security personnel in the US and around the world.

TSA's SPOT-trained security officers screen travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions exhibited in response to fear of being discovered. TSA says it recognizes that exhibiting some of these behaviors doesn't automatically mean that a person has terrorist or criminal intent. SPOT does, however, help security officers focus appropriate resources on determining if an individual presents a higher risk or if the behavior has a non-threatening origin, TSA contends. Individuals exhibiting specific observable behaviors may be referred for additional screening at the checkpoint to include a handwanding, limited pat down, and physical inspection of carry-on baggage. Referrals are based on specific observed behaviors only, not on one's appearance, race, ethnicity, or religion, TSA says.

The idea behind the SPOT program is to add an element of unpredictability to the security screening process that is easy for passengers to navigate but difficult for terrorists to manipulate. TSA says it serves as an important additional layer of security in the airport environment, requires no additional specialized screening equipment, can easily be deployed to other modes of transportation, and presents yet one more challenge the terrorists need to overcome in attempt to defeat our security system.

Pilot training for the program took place in April 2006. SPOT is currently operating at about 40 major airports nationwide.

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