Roaming airport screeners look for people with something to hideSeptember 4, 2012
A federal officer was watching passengers at Sacramento International Airport on Wednesday when one caught his eye.
A young man in line, unshaven and carrying a backpack, apparently looked suspicious.
The officer was not a typical Transportation Security Administration screener. He was a specially trained Behavior Detection Officer. BDOs work in the agency's Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program (SPOT) and are trained to study a person's face and body language for hints of his mental state.
They roam all parts of the airport, including curbside.
"Officers are screening travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered," the TSA says on its website.
The federal Government Accountability Office has been pushing TSA to do more studies on whether the program really can foil terrorists. A GAO analysis found that the program prompted 1,000 arrests in a recent four-year period, but none was directly linked by the GAO to terrorism. Most people were arrested for being in the country illegally. Others had outstanding warrants. Some were carrying fraudulent documents or illegal drugs.