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“Contempt for the Screening Process” and 91 Other Reasons TSA Thinks You’re a Terrorist by Daniel Bier

It’s true that TSA’s physical screeners are embarrassingly bad at their jobs, failing to notice 95% of threats in tests by Homeland Security.

But always never fear! TSA also has Behavior Detection Officers. These super agents can spot terrorists just by looking at them. Now, thanks to a leaked TSA checklist (and scorecard) of suspicious behaviors, you can too!

The document shows 92 different behaviors that can flag you as suspicious — such as being too happy (or too sad); having “sweaty palms” or “rubbing hands”; “arriving late” and “body odor”; “gazing down” or “open staring eyes” — to which an arbitrary number of “points” are attached.

If you score six or more points, you win a trip to enhanced screening and an interrogation by police. But you can get points deducted for being old (minus 1 point for women over 55 or men over 65) or married and old (minus 2 for a couple over 55).

Of course, the Intercept reports, the program has

attracted controversy for the lack of science supporting it. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.”

After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

The suspicious behavior checklist also includes “having a cold penetrating stare” and “expressing contempt for the screening process.” After reading this, I’m not sure it’ll be any easier for me to get through TSA without them.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of TSA officer Robert Howard signals an airline passenger forward at a security check-point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Jan. 4. (AP Photo)