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TSA's New 'Chat-down' Security Expands to Detroit Airport

October 24, 2011 at 4:21 PM | by | ()

We really don't want to be those travel bloggers. The ones who reflexively complain about everything TSA does just because it's really easy to pick on TSA. We try to be fair about moron passengers, we take pains to explain why TSA agents sometimes have to conduct intrusive inspections, and we give the agency credit when they improve their security protocols.

But the more we read about TSA's shift to Israel-style airport security inspections—which are now being called "chat-downs" by journalists and politicians, because naming things is fun—the more worried we get. This is the agency's new SPOT program, where agents ask you personal questions while you wait in line, and then they try to read your body language to determine whether you're making things up. We haven't quite figured out what's wrong but we're pretty sure we don't like it.

It seems like the program was either intentionally designed to be security theater or it was incompetently designed to the point of uselessness. We're not sure which one is worse.

SPOT is in the news again because the program just got expanded to Detroit-Metro Airport. Up until now the pilot program had been limited to Terminal A of Boston's Logan Airport, where over 110,000 passengers were interviewed in just over a month.

That's a lot of passengers, you might say. And you'd be right. How did the terminal not grind to a halt, you might wonder. It turns out that most of the interviews last about one a minute. That's great from an efficiency standpoint, we suppose. But it's a huge cause for concern given that Israeli agents take orders of magnitude more time to do their interviews.

And it's not as if the TSA agents are better trained than Israeli agents. The opposite is true. We know from previous reports that TSA agents are actually dramatically under-trained, spending only 4 days in the classroom and 1 day in live training. So what could they possibly be accomplishing in about a minute? Other than pretending to make everybody safer?

[Photo: redjar / Wiki Commons]

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