The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

New GAO Report Discredits TSA's Behavior Detection Program

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) behavior detection program does not have enough credible evidence to justify the massive amount of funding used. The Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, otherwise known as the SPOT program has cost approximately $900 million since its implementation in 2007. The report, "Aviation Security: TSA Should Limit Future Funding for Behavior Detection Activities", can be read here

According to GAO, not only is the TSA limited on its ability to conduct performance evaluations of the SPOT program due to unreliable or subjective information and the design of data collection, but other meta-analyses have shown that the human capability to "accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance." The report recommends that Congress should perform a cost-benefit analysis of the SPOT program, being sure to note the (lack of) scientific evidence, and whether or not the potential benefits are substantial enough to secure the program's future funding. GAO does acknowledge that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not agree with the recommendations of this report.