A new Government Accounting Office report says at least 16 known terrorists have passed through U.S. airports where federal officials were trained to spot suspicious behavior. The report says that between May 2004 and August 2008, behavior detection officers who work for the Transportation Security Administration made about 1,100 arrests. None were for terrorism.
The TSA has deployed about 3,000 of these specialists at high-volume airports. And while they have spotted people who were subsequently arrested for a number of crimes — illegal immigrants predominately — the GAO says because the program has not been scientifically validated, "it cannot be determined if the results were better than if passengers had been pulled aside at random."
The GAO report also said that at least 16 people who were later involved in terror plots traveled several times through eight airports where the detection monitoring program was in effect, and none of the 16 was ever stopped. The report noted that it was unable to discover whether the detection officers were stationed at any of the checkpoints used by these 16 people. Plus, it appears that the 16 were not engaged in any terrorist attacks on these flights but were on trips to further their plans — going for training, for example — so they might not have exhibited the kind of behavior the officers are trained to detect.