According to a recent AP report, the Government Accountability Office took a deeper look into a Transportation Security Administration program to visually screen -- profile -- passengers for suspicious behavior. The GAO not only found that the program -- also known as "Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques" -- has cost the federal government nearly $1 billion annually since 2007, but the methods used have been ineffective.
"TSA has yet to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of the program despite spending about $900 million on it since 2007," said Steve Lord, who directed the investigation for the GAO. He said the GAO, which is the research and investigative arm of Congress, "conducts active oversight of the TSA for the Congress given their multibillion-dollar budget." He said "the behavior detection program is viewed as a key layer of aviation security."
The problem, the GAO observed, is that there is no empirical science behind profiling techniques like those utilized by TSA officers. The report said the behavior indicators were "subjective," and therefore there was no proof they actually work. The TSA claims it needs more time to determine just how effective the program actually is.
While lawmakers consider the report, concern has been raised on both sides of the political aisle. The House Homeland Security Committee will consider the GAO report further on Thursday.
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