Israeli behavior profiling is active rather than passive, with agents approaching every passenger in line and trying to knock them off-balance with personal questions.
The goal is to check if passengers are who they claim to be, or if they're inventing cover stories. The questions, then, are explicitly designed to be personal. Agents will not only ask questions like "what hotel did you stay at" and "what did you visit," but also "who drove you here" and "who did you have dinner with last night?" An El Al gate agent at JFK once asked us about the last time we had family dinner, and we know someone who got a question about attending religious services. While this is happening agents are flipping through passenger passports, and can ask questions about past trips. They're not actually interested in what someone did last time they were in Italy, of course. They just want to see whether people are stumbling around trying to come up with an answer.
The problem is that Americanson the whole, averaging across the flying publicwill simply go out of their minds if asked those kinds of personal questions. Can you imagine an American passenger responding to a TSA question like "when was the last time you attended church?" There's just no way.
Compared to Americansand for obvious reasonsIsraelis are willing to spend more money on security and to tolerate a more intrusive security system. TSA has to clear both of those hurdles before adopting the Israeli behavior model. They still have the same old resources problem, since it takes a lot of time and money to create the kind of experts who can tell from someone's eye movements whether they're inventing an answer to "who drove you to the airport?" The agency may flat out just not have the money to train enough agents for long enough. Apparently SPOT training requires four days of classroom instruction and then 24 hours of live training. That's unlikely to be enough.
Even if TSA finds the resources, it will still have to thread a very fine needle: implementing Israeli-style security without asking the kind of Israeli-style questions that Americans would find unacceptable.
[Photo: redjar / Flickr]