Who could be a potential threat in an airport?
Pretty much anyone who's breathing, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA has kept its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, checklist hidden for some time, but on Friday the Intercept published the 92-point checklist after a frustrated TSA source leaked it.
The list reveals how TSA agents are taught to use a scoring system to rank passengers according to potential threat levels — and the behaviors that could be considered suspicious are very broad.
A person who "appears to be in disguise" is given three points according to SPOT guidelines, while if two people are "apparent[ly]" married and over 55, they have two points deducted from their suspicion ranking.
Are you "trembling" or did you show up late for your flight? You're more suspicious in the eyes of trained TSA agents.
TSA agents man the checkpoint for pre-cleared passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson)
The TSA's list seems to echo the Amtrak security guidelines revealed last fall, in that both sets of guidelines cast such a wide net of suspicion that practically any passenger could be deemed a threat.
Researchers are dubious about the SPOT program's effectiveness, and in a 2013 report the Government Accountability Office panned the program, noting that research has shown that "the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance."
Former TSA managers said their guidelines were bunk.
"The SPOT sheet was designed in such a way that virtually every passenger will exhibit multiple 'behaviors' that can be assigned a SPOT sheet value," the former manager told the Intercept, saying the signs the guidelines say to watch for "are ridiculous."
"These are just 'catch all' behaviors to justify BDO [Behavior Detection Officer] interaction with a passenger," the former manager said. "A license to harass."
A second TSA veteran put things more bluntly.
"The SPOT program is bulls***," the second former manager told the Intercept. "Complete bulls***."
Since the SPOT program started in 2007, it has cost more than $900 million, the GAO noted.
See the full list of "suspicious" behaviors here.
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