A Transportation Security Administration program to screen passengers at airports based on their behavior missed at least 16 people later linked to terror plots, according to a government report released last week.
The program — dubbed Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques — began testing in October 2003 to identify those who pose a risk to aviation security by focusing on behavior and appearance. But the program was introduced without valid “scientific basis” and still faces operational challenges, says the report by the Government Accountability Office. “A scientific consensus does not exist on whether behavior-detection principles can be reliably used for counterterrorism purposes,” the report says.
The program employs 3,000 officers at 161 airports nationwide and costs $212 million annually. It’s requesting $20 million more for 2011.