Local News

Nov 14, 2013 3:48 PM by Rachel Cole - rcole@kristv.com

Airport Security 'SPOT' Program Costing Nearly a Billion Dollars

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Government Accountability Office is recommending that the Transportation Security Agency stop funding its "SPOT" program. It is designed to pick passengers for additional screening based on suspicious behavior. The GAO says it isn't convinced the program works, but local airport officials say it is an important tool.

The Corpus Christi International Airport Chief of Public Safety, John Hyland, says TSA is in charge of screening people and bags. He says tight security measures are necessary to ensure passenger safety.

"If you want to fly, then you have to go through the screening checkpoint," he said.

However, BDO's - or behavioral detection officers - are trained undercover TSA officers who screen people before they make it to the checkpoints.

BDO's are trained to look for expressions of fear, anxiety and deception but Chief Hyland says some people might just be running late.

"Obviously, when someone's acting out of the norm, that becomes an issue and most of the time it's because they're late or they're afraid to fly," Chief Hyland said.

However, in a public statement, the TSA defended the "SPOT" program saying, "Looking for suspicious behavior is a common sense approach... and when combined with other security layers helps mitigate a variety of threats."

The TSA has spent 900 million dollars on the "SPOT" program but the GAO says that money was wasted. It says the program is no more effective in identifying security threats than simply picking people at random.

Instead of spending more money to improve the "SPOT" program, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill suggested using those dollars to add extra security at the nation's airports.

They argued that could prevent tragedies like the shooting rampage at LAX two weeks ago.

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