Salt Lake Airport security keeps watchful eye on travelers

Last Update: 4/03 9:25 pm

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - ABC4 got a rare look at a level of security at the Salt Lake International Airport that has been virtually unknown to the public. Transportation Safety officials say it's the same security program that stopped a man with bomb making materials from boarding a flight from Orlando to Jamaica Tuesday.

It is a glimpse of the system the T.S.A. has been reluctant to reveal---until now.

“We're looking for things that are out of the ordinary,” said Brandy Thomas, “You could be anybody and if you are exhibiting behaviors we're going to see it.” They are called “Behavior Detection Officers.”

When you’re waiting to check-in at the security gate Brandy Thomas and Sherilyn Johnson are among a team of eyes always scrutinizing, looking for that telltale sign of trouble. “It’s kind of amazing what you do see when you're looking for it,” said Johnson.

These “BDO’s” are extreme people watchers who have developed almost a sixth sense. “It doesn't shut off when I go home, I’m doing it,” said Thomas. “When I go to the store, I'm doing it. It is a thing that you get adapted to that you use all the time.”

Even when it's in a sea of stressed out travelers the BDO’s can single out that someone displaying stress, fear or deception. “After doing this for a while they are blaring,” said Johnson, “right when they come through we know who they are. They stick out like sore thumbs to us.”

It happened in Orlando this week and thwarted a potentially deadly threat. “Our ultimate goal is looking for the guy who does have the bomb but on our way to that we do pick out people who are nervous because they have an outstanding warrant,” Johnson said.

They have detected fugitives, drug runners and an accused porn peddler. “There was no terrorist threat but he was transporting some sizable child pornography in his carry on luggage,” said TSA’s Assistant Federal Security Director, Dennis Crandall.

The Behavior Detection Officers are just one of about two dozen safe guards in place, and in flux, designed to pin-point any potential threat to the public. “We're always implementing new measures of security, said TSA Public Affairs Manager, Dwayne Baird, “the fact that people who would do us harm are always watching.”

The TSA would not reveal specific techniques the BDO’s use citing obvious security reasons. They also say BDO’s also receive extensive training against profiling. Instead of singling out someone for their race or ethnicity BDO’s rely on a person’s physical and physiological behavior to give them away.

This level of security is relatively new. It has only been in place for about three years. TSA officials chose to talk about it now because of all the publicity the Orlando incident received.

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