MINNEAPOLIS -- A financial watchdog agency is questioning the value of the Transportation Security Administration's airport behavior screening program.
The Governmental Accountability Office or GAO issued a report Wednesday assertingthe TSA doesn't have much to show for the $900 million it has spent on the program, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT.
The TSA launched the program in 2007 in hopes of duplicating the success of behavior detection programs in place in Israel and Europe for decades.
It's intended to go beyond simply screening for weapons, and to pinpointthose passengers who may have intent to bring down a jetliner.
The GAP report says of 61,000 passengers referred to airport security for extra questioning, only 13 percent have been turned over to police. And of that group only 366, or less than one percent, were arrested for a crime.
The GAO also cites numerous studies done over 60 years, which said a human's ability to detective deceptive behavior is "the same or only slightly better than chance."
The agency recommended that Congress consider ending funding for the SPOT program, but the TSA wants more time to prefect the system and find better ways to document its effectiveness.
Local Expert's Take
Michael Rozin, a Minneapolis security consultant who spent part of his career at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, said that the basic concept of behavioral detection is still valid.
But he said he's not impressed by the design andstructure ofTSA's version.
"There's a need to really take a comprehensive look at the core of this program, its implementation, and the people behind the program -- the management," Rozin said.
"When it comes to malicious intent we're talking about a little more comprehensive set of factors, things like the story of the person, the reason for being there,his actions,his belongings."
Rozin grew up in Israel, where the practice has been in place for more than 30 years.His list of private and public sector clients includes the Mall of America, which uses a form of behavior detection as part of itsongoing security measures.
"It's not a simple as spottinga person'sphysiological response to stress," he said.
"But also the story, the correlation of the story itself, the actions associated with the person, the overall profile of the person."
He said there are logical questions that screeners can ask a passenger during a casual conversation about the reason for taking a particular flight.
"You have a business, and you're going for a business meeting. You must know the name of the business, where it's located, and the top product that the business sells."
If thepassenger's cover story doesn't hold up, or seems out of context,there's a reason to continue the probe.