TSA Officers Lack Training to Spot Terrorists

A new government report released Thursday reveals that federal officers with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) who are tasked with the job of spotting terrorists at airports have little training.

As CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian first reported on Wednesday the TSA's behavior detection officers have never spotted a terrorist. Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office discovered that at least 16 known terrorists travelled through 8 different U.S. airports 23 times where the program had been implemented.

The GAO report says the TSA implemented its behavior detection program, which now costs taxpayers about $200 million annually, without first determining if there was any scientific valid basis for using it.

Read the GAO Report

As part of the program, specialized TSA officers watch passengers waiting in lines at select U.S. airport checkpoints and are supposed to be able to recognize anyone who is a security threat based on an analysis of facial expressions and body language.

According to the GAO, the TSA's behavior detection officers typically work in teams of two and "training includes 4 days of classroom courses, followed by 3 days of on-the-job training."

In a statement, the TSA told CBS News that their program has resulted in about 1,700 arrests for criminal activities. The GAO report shows the majority of arrests between May of 2004 and August of 2008 was for individuals with illegal immigration status and outstanding warrants.

Behavior detection is a strategy borrowed from the Israelis whose airport security is considered the gold standard. Rafi Ron, the former head of security at Tel Aviv airport who specializes in behavior detection techniques, says the TSA program is too limited. In Israel, he says, behavior detection is spread throughout the entire airport, conducted by all airport employees and is coupled with strategic interviewing that is not done in the U.S. The TSA's behavior detection program is one of 20 aviation security measures in place at the nation's airports.

  • CBS Investigates

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