TSA investigating racial profiling at Boston airport

People stand in line at a security checkpoint on Dec. 27, 2001 at Logan Airport in Boston, Mass. Heightened security has become even more of a priority since an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami was diverted to Boston after a passenger tried to light shoes carrying a possible explosive device.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

(CBS News) The Transportation Security Administration is investigating claims of racial profiling at Boston's Logan Airport.

The New York Times reports that 32 TSA officers in Boston have come forward to say Hispanics, blacks, and people of Middle Eastern origin are being targeted because of their appearance.

Report: Racial profiling rampant at Boston airport, TSA officials say

The charges focus on a program called Expanded Behavior Detection. The program borrows a page from what Israelis have been doing for many years, CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former deputy director of National Intelligence, said on "CBS This Morning."

"(The program) observes passengers walking around the terminal for suspicious behavior. Then it has a new layer, which is and - this is what the Israelis hung their hat on is - it involves an interview where they actually talk to the passengers in the line before they go through security. And it's a few short questions, very casual, but then they watch the behavior of the passenger giving the answers."

Who TSA officers select for additional screening or referral to a law enforcement officer is where the controversy lies, Miller said. "The TSA says they don't take this casually," Miller said. "They have a scoring sheet where they actually make the assessors actually kind of go through, 'Well, were they suspicious this way or that way?' They have to kind of add it up. And when we asked, 'Well, how many blacks do you stop, versus how many Hispanics, versus how many Muslims? They said, 'We don't ask them any of that because that's not what it's supposed about. So we can't give you the numbers. What we asked inspectors to do is to say can you articulate what the suspicious behavior was, not what the person looked like.'"

Asked if there's inherently some profiling happening in making a decision to pick a person to interview, Miller said there is. "But there is a lot of training that goes into this that tells them, you're supposed to focus on the behavior, focus on the answers, focus on somebody who either is exhibiting fears of being caught at something."

Miller said Richard Reed, the shoe bomber who intended to be the follow-up attack to 9/11 tried to board an Israeli jet and failed in the interview process with his answers. "They said, 'You're not boarding this plane.' He was able to board an American carrier where they don't do that because all they had to do was get his very well-concealed bomb through security. What the administrator of TSA, John Pistole -- and in the name of full-disclosure my ex-boss -- when he took over TSA, the idea was, how do we get a more layered approach that is less focused on finding a nail clipper in the bottom of somebody's bag and more focused on where is the suspicious behavior, who is potentially a high-risk passenger."

For more with Miller on this issue, watch the video in the player above.