This Is What TSA Agents Are Looking For To See If You're A Terrorist

by Sean Levinson
DreamWorks SKG

A list of specific behaviors the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) looks for to identify potential terrorists has been revealed.

According to The Intercept, 92 different actions, appearances and possessions are each assigned a specific number of points in the "SPOT Referral Report" based on how alarming they are.

SPOT stands for the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, which is a program that was introduced in 2007 and has cost more than $900 million.

The document was obtained by The Intercept thanks to an inside source who questions whether such methods actually work.

Thousands of individuals known as Behavior Detection Officers have been trained to notice these behaviors and talk to suspects.

A single point is assigned to a traveler if he or she fidgets, whistles or has sweaty palms.

Outward displays of arrogance along with a stiff appearance and seemingly malicious stare are each worth two points.

Other moves that denote suspicion include excessive yawning, throat-clearing, complaining about TSA screening, a wide-eyed expression and constantly looking down.

Rubbing one's hands together, repeatedly grooming oneself (like combing hair) and wearing clothes that don't match up with one's destination are also listed.

Behaviors worth three points are obvious indicators of criminal activity like wearing what seems to be a disguise.

Once a traveler is pulled aside for a private interrogation, he or she is then inspected for gestures the document refers to as "signs of deception" along with luggage deemed "unusual," both of which have point values as well.

Suspicious possessions range from almanacs to prepaid phones or calling cards, and signs of deception consist of nervous mannerisms like excessive blinking and covering one's mouth when speaking.

Travelers can have points taken away, however, depending on factors like age, sex or marital status.

If a suspicious couple is married and both spouses are over 55, two points are deducted.

A woman will have a point deducted simply for being over the age of 55 while male travelers must be 65 or older for a single point deduction.

The SPOT program's effectiveness has been called into question many times because there is little evidence that such behaviors are associated with aviation terror.

Hundreds of studies on the issue were reviewed in 2013 by the Government Accountability Office, which ultimately determined that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”

A former Behavior Detection Officer told The Intercept the point system purposely features normal behaviors so law enforcement can have an excuse to interrogate anyone they please.

Another former BDO offered just two words to describe the program: "complete bullsh*t."

Citations: TSAs Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists (The Intercept)