According to the recent GAO report, TSA’s policies prohibit screeners from picking passengers for additional screening based on factors such as race, ethnicity, or religion.

Instead, while screening passengers, TSA:

  • Uses behavioral detection to look for passengers whose characteristics exhibit stress, fear, or deception.
  • Can then refer those passengers for additional screening or to law enforcement if needed.
  • Monitors screeners’ use of behavior detection with seven oversight checklists following TSA policy.

However:

  • The checklists do not instruct supervisors to monitor for indications of profiling.
  • TSA received 3,663 complaints related to passenger screening accusing them of racial profiling between October 2015 and February 2018.
  • Of those 3,663, the Multicultural Branch found 1,066 that were related to potential discrimination and professional misconduct.
  • As a response, TSA recommended refresher training courses and took disciplinary actions for 100 screeners.

Per GAO’s recommendation, TSA plans to modify existing oversight checklists to include specific terminology for monitoring unlawful profiling by the end of September 2019.  GAO’s report and TSA’s response are a continued effort to further strengthen behavior detection practices.  As with many things in this sector, a robust program is founded on solid training and a commitment to continuous improvement.

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