Will end to ‘profiling’ cause airport frustration?

In this file photo, passengers walk through the security line at BWI Airport in Baltimore. (Ricky Carioti - WASHINGTON POST)
In this file photo, passengers walk through the security line at BWI Airport in Baltimore. (Ricky Carioti – WASHINGTON POST)

A House subcommittee hearing is underway on a controversial TSA program where several thousand TSA workers scan approaching passengers for suspicious behavior.

In a report to be presented to a House subcommittee Thursday, the Government Accountability Office says there is no evidence that it’s effective for Transportation Security Administration officers to scan crowds for telltale signs someone might be a terrorist.

The GAO report recommends that Congress stop funding for the program, which has cost more than $878 million since its launch in 2007.

Critics have suggested that the stress and exhaustion that often accompany air travel are too easily misread as suspicious behavior.  And others have complained that the program, Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), is nothing more than profiling.

“I do believe it’s profiling,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) said at the hearing Thursday.

TSA officials dispute the report’s conclusions. TSA administrator John S. Pistole told the panel that if Congress cuts funding for SPOT, passengers can expect more pat downs, longer lines and more frustration.

Pistole said none of the 199 people who have been arrested as a result of the program were terrorists.

“There has not been a single terrorist attempt to enter a U.S. airport since 911,” Pistole said.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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