When you fly, you're being watched

writtenandreportedby:DeborahSherman,InvestigativeReportercreated:5/19/20083:19:06PM
Lastupdated:5/20/20086:14:21AMWhenyoufly,you'rebeingwatched.9WantstoKnow'sDeborahShermanreports.9NEWSat9p.m.5/19/08
DENVER-TomosttravelersatDenverInternationalAirport,itlookslikesomeoftheTransportationSecurityAdministrationofficersarejuststandingaround.However,TSAOfficerTomCounterisactuallywatchingyou.


He'saBehaviorDetectionOfficer,trainedtoreadthesmallest,mostsubtlesignsthatpassengersmakesubconsciouslywhenthey'reuptonogood.TheinvoluntaryresponsesmaytipofftheTSAifyouareplanningterrorism.
"Ifyoupersonallyfeelguiltyorhaveaproblemwithwhatyou'redoing,alotoftimesthosebehaviorswillexhibitandthenwewillfocusonyouatthatpoint,"saidCounter."Ourjobistodeterminewhatthereasonisandtomakesureit'snotathreattoaviationandathreattopublicsafety."
Theprogram,calledSPOTorScreeningPassengersbyObservationTechnique,beganatDIAoneyearago.Itwascreatedin2003,testedatairportsinBoston,Providence,R.I.andinPortland,Maine,andisnowusedat100airportsnationwide.
Today,therearemorethan1,000BehaviorDetectionOfficerstrainedtonoticeseeminglyinnocentsignsinbodymovements,handgesturesandfacialexpressions.TheTSAwon'trevealwhatspecificbehaviorit'slookingforbecauseitsaiditcouldunderminetheprogram.
TSAProgramAnalystCarlMaccario,whohelpedstarttheprogram,saysstrongemotion,likefear,putsstressonthebodywhichcan'tbehidden.
"Thecloseryougettogotimeandgettingthroughsecurity,thebodywillchange,thedemeanorwillchange,"saidMaccario."Thefearofdiscoverywillstarttoproducecertainbehaviorcuesthatyoucantrainpeopletopickupon."
Peoplewhoarebeingdeceitfulactverydifferentlythanpeoplewhoareafraidtoflyorarenervouswalkingthroughanairport,saidMaccario.
"Mostofthetime,thepassengersarecleared.There'salegitimatereasonastowhythey'reexhibitingthosebehaviorsandontheygo,"saidMaccario."Theworstthingthathappenstothemistheygetalittleadditionalscreening."
WhentheTSAspotstravelersactingsuspiciously,theyreferthemtosecondaryscreenersandaskthemquestions.Thewaytheyrespondtothequestionsthenbecomeseverything.Iftheycontinuetoshowsignsofdeception,theTSAofficerwillcontactlawenforcement.
"It'snotasixthsense.Wedon'thavepsychicpowers,"saidMaccario.
Insteadofusingtheirgut,theyuseasystemofcountingthenumberoftimessomeoneshowsoddbehaviors.Whenthenumberofbehaviorsreachesacertainthreshold,theTSAcallslawenforcementforhelp.
Since2006,morethan114,000passengershavebeensentthroughadditionalscreeningintheSPOTprogram.Ofthose,10,000peoplewerereferredtolawenforcementand788peoplewerearrested.InDenver,therehavebeenatleasteightarrestssincetheprogrambeganlastyear.
KevinMcDonald,34,wasarrestedatDIAinOctoberlastyearandchargedwithforgeryafteraBehaviorDetectionOfficernoticedheandhiscompanionwereactingstrange.
"Duringthebagcheckwefoundouttheyhadabout60differentcreditcardsinthereandseveralofthecreditcardswereinvariousnames,"saidCounter."Theyalsohadsomescanningequipmentandsomeequipmentthatlookedlikeitmightbeutilizedtoproducecreditcards."
InOrlandothisApril,theTSAspottedanArmyveterantryingtobringbomb-makingmaterialsinhisluggage.TheTSAhasalsodetectedpeopletryingtosmugglein$13,000inundeclaredcurrencyinNewark,N.J.,apassengerpossessing$2.5millioninecstasyinFt.Lauderdale,Fla.andatravelerflyingwithfakeidentificationinPhoenix.
TheAmericanCivilLibertiesUnion(ACLU)opposestheprogrambecauseitsaysitinvadesprivacyandissimilartoracialprofiling.
"Whenyougiveanypersontheauthoritytojuststoppeoplebecauseyoudon'tlikethewaythey'rebehavingoryoudon'tlikethewaytheylook,essentially,Ithinkyougetprofiling,"saidCathrynHazouriwiththeACLU.
TheACLUalsodoesn'tthinktheSPOTprogrammakespeoplesaferonairplanes.
"Ifyoutoldmethattheyhadcaught10terroristsoutofathousandpeople,ImightsayOK,atleastthey'recatchingterrorists,"saidHazouri."Buttheyhaven'tcaughtoneterroristandtheprogramhasbeeninexistenceforfiveyearsatleast."
TheTSAadmitsithasn'tcaughtanyterrorists,butsaidithasstoppedpassengerswithpossibletiestoterroristorganizations.OthercriminalsuspectsarecaughtintheTSAnetbecausetheyexhibitthesamesortofdeceptivebehaviorsasterrorists,accordingtoMaccario.TheTSAdeniesitispracticingracialprofiling.
"Ifyou'relookingforastereotypicaltypeterroristwalkingthroughthecheckpoint,therealterroristisgoingtowalkrightbyyouandyou'renotgoingtoseehim,"saidMaccario."SowefeelverystronglytheSPOTprogramistheantidotetoracialprofiling."
TheTSAsaidit'shadfivecomplaintsabouttheSPOTprogramduringthelastfouryears.
Despitethecriticismaboutprofiling,someoftheBehaviorDetectionOfficersaremoreworriedaboutstoppingthenextterrorist.
"Noneofuswantstobetheonethathashisbackturnedwhentheterroristgoesthroughtheline,"saidCounter.
CounterisaformerU.S.AirForceveteranwhoservedduringtheVietnamWar.HesayshewasmotivatedtohelpprotectAmericaaftertheSept.11attacks.CounterwasinthefirstclassofstudentsatDIAtolearnthebehaviordetectiontechniques.Hesayshisjobisverychallengingmentallybecauseitrequireshoursofwatchingpeoplecloselyandevaluatingtheirbehavior.
"It'shardtoscrutinizeeverybodythatgoesthroughand,unfortunately,itmaybetheonepersonwhowedon'tseethatmaybetheproblem,"saidCounter.



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