The Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Agency are finally taking some positive steps to professionalize airport security. The initial step was designating security screeners as security officers, which will require additional training and supervision, as well as additional responsibilities.
Part of the professionalization process is the training of airport security staff in what’s been called psychological profiling or behavioral analysis or a number of other terms that all amount to the same thing — avoiding allegations of racial profiling while at the same time effectively screening out potential terrorists.
This is a welcomed program by those of us in law enforcement who’ve said for years that psychological profiling should be used by airport security staff. While representing the staff and membership of the National Association of Chiefs of Police at lectures or during media interviews, I’ve often discussed the need for upgrading the training of airport security staff with part of the upgrade to include psychological profiling.
Most police officers and investigators are familiar with the concept since it’s used during the interrogation and interview process to detect deception on the part of the subject. Without going into too much detail, interrogators or interviewers, while questioning a subject about the matter at hand, are observing body language, eye contact, breathing, physical characteristics such as dry mouth or profuse perspiration, and other criteria.
Israeli security agents and police have used this method for screening people at airports and security checkpoints for years with much success.
In a press release the American Civil Liberties Union has warned that the behavior analysis screening technique could result in racial profiling. Could result? Creating public policy based on what “could result” is nonsense since in this case the ACLU insinuates bad intentions on the part of US security and law enforcement officers.