Imagine you're in line at the airport, waiting to go through the security checkpoint. The line is long, and you're worried about missing your flight. Suddenly, a TSA agent approaches you and says that you need to go through extra screening because you're "acting suspicious."
It sounds outrageous, but it happens to travelers every day as part of the TSA's "behavior detection" process, formally known as the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. The program uses a checklist to identify traits and behaviors that could identify potential nervous terrorists. However, the checklist, which was , includes several indicators like "arriving late for flight," "clock-watching," and "repeatedly touching face" that could also apply to any number of people trying to get through an extremely chaotic and stressful situation.
It's pretty obvious that the SPOT program doesn't work, and recent documents obtained by the ACLU show that the TSA knows it too, even as they continue to administer the program. The ACLU for documents related to the program, and among them are studies conducted by the TSA that reveal the program's ineffectiveness.
According to the , the TSA implemented the SPOT program without any studies to show that it worked. The agency did eventually conduct those studies, which found the program was no better than random chance at picking out possible threats. The ACLU has suggested that the TSA completely shutdown the SPOT program.