Before pat-downs, TSA tries 'chat-downs' in Boston

Transportation Security Administration agents are trying out a new behavioral recognition tactic, starting Aug. 2 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, writes the Boston Globe’s Katie Johnston.

TSA officers will get chatty with travelers, asking a few questions to all passengers departing through the airport’s Terminal A. Those questions will be something like, “Where are you traveling today?” and “How long have you been in town?” Johnston writes.

The agency already has behavior detection officers working at 161 U.S. airports, according to TSA’s website. Those officers observe travelers at airports for signs of anxiety or nervous actions, and they might recommend extra security screening.

The Boston test will add more personal interaction to that program as agents speak directly with travelers. Behavioral analysis can reveal people’s true emotions, even when they try to mask them. A TSA official emphasized that point, telling Johnston that the agents are more interested in travelers’ reactions than the actual content of their answers.

TSA is looking for new methods of ensuring safe air travel while minimizing privacy invasions. In the court of public opinion, the balance seemed to be tipping decidedly toward invasive security at the expense of personal privacy. However, TSA announced last month that it is releasing a software upgrade for the Advanced Imaging Technology scanners so that the machines would no longer produce explicitly detailed images of travelers’ naked bodies.

Objections by travelers to being patted down also has drawn the attention of the Texas state legislature, which has twice tried to pass legislation making some pat-downs a crime.

 

About the Author

Michael Protos is a web content editor with 1105 Government Information Group.

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