Lisa Schaefer, a research scientist from Vienna, Va., thinks that she was singled out because she was “white, female, educated, confident — and in a hurry.” Instead of asking her questions, TSA agents in St. Louis removed her bag from the X-ray machine and claimed that it had to go through again. Then they waited. Finally, another TSA agent re-screened her suitcase, even though it was obvious that she was close to missing her flight. “It was the only power they had over [me],” she says.
Experts say that behavior profiling, when done correctly, can make flying safer. “If TSA employees are trained and demonstrate that they are aware of how to engage people and then do a good job of engaging travelers in conversation, then travelers should appreciate the new approach,” says Rick Shaw, a Washington-based security expert. “However, if TSA employees attempt the behavior detection and engagement with a poor attitude, or act like they are just there to get a paycheck, or act like they are annoyed by travelers — attitudes I have observed quite often — then travelers won’t be impressed. They won’t see the value or feel any safer.”