Program is based on “little more than a cultural fiction”
March 25, 2014
Conclusions drawn by behavioral science experts have confirmed that the TSA has wasted close to $1 billion on training screeners to look for suspicious body language and facial expressions at airport lines.
The New York Times reported the findings this week, justifying criticism already raised by the Government Accountability Office last year that TSA’s “behavior detection officers” were a waste of taxpayer funds.
“The common-sense notion that liars betray themselves through body language appears to be little more than a cultural fiction,” Maria Hartwig, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, told the Times.
From eye movement to sideways head movements, every perceived aspect of body language that has thought to be indicative of lying or wrong doing has been found to be an unproven theory only.
“There is no Pinocchio’s nose — no one cue that will always accompany deception,” said Leanne ten Brinke, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert in eye-movement studies.
“When you’re lying or cheating, you know it and feel guilty, and it feels to you as if your emotions must be leaking out through your body language,” noted Dr. Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago. “You have an illusion that your emotions are more transparent than they actually are, and so you assume others are more transparent than they actually are, too.”
The Times report notes how study after study over the last 60 years has provided no evidence at all to suggest that deception can be recognized through body language. In fact, there is essentially no more probability of finding a dishonest person through such methods than there is from randomly picking someone out of a crowd.
Yet the TSA still spent a billion dollars on such a program, and even defended it, despite the fact that there has not been one case of the program identifying a single person who has done wrong.
As the GAO pointed out, fewer than 1 percent of the more than 30,000 passengers a year who are identified as suspicious end up being arrested, and that not one single offense has been linked to terrorism.
Of course, the behavioral analysis program provides a magnificent excuse for TSA gropers to grab anyone they choose to pull aside and harass. All they need do is say that the person looked shifty, a technique that the agency is increasingly deploying OUSTIDE of airports, on the streets and highways.