US Airport Security Lacks Evidence That Behavioral Indicators Spot Threats



Thousands of behavior detection officers employed at US airports are looking for signs of stress, fear or deception without valid evidence those targeted symptoms are effective predictors of security threats, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Thousands of behavior detection officers employed at US airports are looking for signs of stress, fear or deception without valid evidence those targeted symptoms are effective predictors of security threats, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Thursday.

"The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not have valid evidence that most of the revised behavioral indicators (28 of 36) used in its behavior detection activities can be used to identify individuals who may pose a threat to aviation security," the report stated.

The report emphasized that original research sources presenting valid evidence are necessary because the data and conclusions they present are derived from empirical research that can be replicated and evaluated.

More than three-fourths of the sources cited by TSA in developing its latest guidelines rely on news articles, opinion pieces, presentations by law enforcement entities and industry groups, and screen shots of online medical websites that do not meet GAO's definition of valid evidence.

The report found that that just 3 of the 178 total sources cited could be used as valid evidence to support 8 of the 36 behavioral indicators in TSA's latest list.

More specifically, TSA has one source of valid evidence to support each of 7 indicators, 2 sources of valid evidence to support 1 indicator, and does not have valid evidence to support 28 behavioral indicators, the report concluded.

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