The same ridiculed and useless techniques used by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to not find terrorists at America’s airports are now being used at Orlando theme parks, including Disney World, Sea World, and Busch Gardens, to not find terrorists.
A Billion Dollars Hits the SPOT
The Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, program is TSA’s one billion dollar “behavioral detection” scheme. SPOT requires TSA staff to be on the lookout for indicators, “tells” to you poker players out there, that give away bad guys. Some of the actual indicators are listed on the graphic, above.
There are actually 92 individual indicators (terrorists are sneaky!), divided into various categories with a point score assigned to each. Those categories include a preliminary “observation and behavior analysis.” Those passengers pulled over for additional inspection are scored based on two more categories: whether they have “unusual items,” like almanacs and “numerous prepaid calling cards or cell phones,” and a final category for “signs of deception,” which include “covers mouth with hand when speaking” and “fast eye blink rate.”
TSA agents are also told to watch out for persons traveling “wearing a disguise.”
You can also be judged less suspicious. Points can be deducted from someone’s score based on observations that they are part of an “apparent” married couple, as long as both people are over 55. No word on same sex couples. That’s two points deducted. Women over the age of 55 have one pointed deducted; for men, the point deduction doesn’t come until they reach 65.
SPOT On Failures
As to how well the SPOT program works, let’s check in with the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.
That office found in 2013 that TSA had failed to evaluate SPOT at all, and thus “cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion.”
The Government Accounting Office and independent scientists who bothered to evaluate SPOT say it performs no better than a coin-toss at catching terrorists.
Enter the Mouse
With that kind of track record, you are left shaking your head when you learn that Orlando TSA officers trained 400 local cops and security for area attractions like Disney in the SPOT system, all of whom are now watching for “excessive throat clearing,” “improper attire,” “gazing down,” and “wide open staring eyes” as signs of potential theme park terrorism.
At least now, with SPOT, everyone has a “scientific basis” for their racial profiling.
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.