Heading for your timeshare vacation? Here is a new TSA program of which you might want to take note, called the “chatdown.”
Ever since the public outcry when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) upped the ante and began doing pat downs during airport security checks, the TSA has been looking at alternatives. Charged with preventing terrorist attacks and keeping the public safe, the TSA has found itself walking a fine line between strict security measures and personal rights.
Critics have been quick to point to other countries, which, in their opinion do a better job at both. One such country often cited is Israel. Although that comparison is also controversial. Experts say Americans face differing challenges including a greater sensitivity in the U.S. to racial and ethnic profiling, and the fact that American airports process a great deal more travelers.
However, this week it was announced that the TSA will begin a pilot program at Boston’s Logan Airport with a new security layer, the “chatdown.” Essentially a brief conversation with a specially trained agent, the measure has been adopted from Israeli security forces as a way of rooting out potentially dangerous passengers before they board aircraft.
As explained in a TSA news release, passengers will be asked a series of questions by a Behavior Detection Officer (BDO) as they have their identification verified at the security checkpoint.
Based on physical cues or answers to questions during the dialogue, specially trained officers are able to detect suspicious behavior, a TSA spokesman explained. This analysis will help identify “potentially high-risk travelers.”
“Security officers are screening travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered,” explained the TSA.
"We are looking for behaviors that are out of the norm - some kind of indicators of intent to cause a problem," says George Nacarra, federal security director for the TSA at Logan.
However, looking nervous and averting eye contact are not considered to be giveaway signs, according to the TSA. “We recognize an individual exhibiting some of these behaviors does not automatically mean a person has terrorist or criminal intent,” noted the TSA statement.
The TSA won’t discuss what BDO officers will be looking for, but Nicarra points to some hints “that a bad guy might be planning to do bad things” such as "the movement of the eyes, perspiring in a cool environment, and the Adam's apple movement.”
“Most of the behaviors the BDO officers are looking for,” says Nicarra, “are involuntary physiological reactions that a human being would not be able to repress.” Individuals exhibiting specific observable behaviors will be referred for additional screening.
Every passenger transiting Boston’s Logan Airport will be required to go through the “chatdown” during the pilot program’s 60-day run.
(Photo credit - Josh Reynolds/AP via NPR.org)