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Insiders spill beans on airport surveillance and security

February 7, 2014 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Some curious allegations and little-known facts have emerged on the subject of surveillance and  security at American airports.

It turns out that the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) runs an Orwellian-sounding “behaviour detection program” which involves 3000 officers at 176 airports trained to detect behavioural clues of “mal-intent’’. More-fun-in-the-Philippines_250X250px

Furthermore, racial profiling was, and probably still is, used by security officials at US airports. Some nationalities and groups of people are considered potentially more dangerous than others. Common sense perhaps – but it’s not meant to be done in the US.

An article in the Wall Street Journal says trained behavioural experts scrutinise travellers at checkpoints and throughout US airports for signs of abnormal stress, fear and deception. They also roam terminals and sometimes engage passengers in casual conversation to measure reactions, the article stated.

The paper said the program had resulted in arrests for fraudulent documents, drug possession and other violations unrelated to aviation security or terrorism. The program had triggered complaints of racial profiling.

Fidgeting, excessive sweating and wearing heavy clothes in a warm climate are among 94 different indicators that can get you lined up for enhanced screening, apparently.

Meanwhile, former TSA airport agent Jason Edward Harrington has written an article for the Politico site on his experiences. He is also writing a book.

Harrington said his job required him to confiscate nail clippers from airline pilots – “the implied logic being that pilots could use the nail clippers to hijack the very planes they were flying”.

In or around 2008, charges of racial profiling by the TSA made headlines every few months, “and working from behind the scenes we knew what was prompting those claims,” Harrington wrote.

He said that until 2010 (when the TSA procedure manual was accidentally leaked), all TSA officers worked with a secret list of 12 nations whose citizens automatically qualified for enhanced screening, full-body pat-downs, total luggage examination and so forth. The countries were Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Harrington says the list was purely political because it didn’t include Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, “historically known to harbour, aid and abet terrorists”. Perhaps the US didn’t want to offend those countries. In any case, many TSA workers confused the countries and just gave Middle Easterners a specially thorough screening, he writes.

Written by : Peter Needham

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