More Molesting At The Terminal

In an effort to fight terrorism, many airports are considering use of a machine which would read and analyze biometric responses such as blood pressure, sweat and pulse rates. According to the Wall Street Journal, some Knoxville, TN passengers were selected to participate in a trial of such a machine.

With one hand inserted into a sensor that monitors physical responses, the travelers used the other hand to answer questions on a touch screen about their plans. A machine measured biometric responses — blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels — that then were analyzed by software. The idea was to ferret out U.S. officials who were carrying out carefully constructed but make-believe terrorist missions.

The TSA is being pretty tight lipped about the nature of the tests and questions but the WSJ reports that “the system is generally designed to measure physical responses to hot-button questions like “Are you planning to immigrate illegally?” or “Are you smuggling drugs.” Hmm, that sounds pretty terrorist related to me.

The method isn’t intended to catch specific lies, says Shabtai Shoval, chief executive of Suspect Detection Systems, the start-up business behind the technology dubbed Cogito. “What we are looking for are patterns of behavior that indicate something all terrorists have: the fear of being caught,” he says.

Now I am sure that terrorists fear getting caught, but what about those poor souls that have an honest fear of flying? What about those who have health issues that make it appear that they are fearful of being caught?

The TSA already has a human version of the test and deals with those very questions.

The people-based program — called Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT — began undergoing tests at Boston’s Logan Airport after 9/11 and has expanded to about a dozen airports. Trained teams watch travelers in security lines and elsewhere. They look for obvious things like someone wearing a heavy coat on a hot day, but also for subtle signs like vocal timbre, gestures and tiny facial movements that indicate someone is trying to disguise an emotion.

“All you know is there’s an emotion being concealed. You have to find out why the emotion is occurring,” says Paul Ekman, a San Francisco psychologist who pioneered work on facial expressions and is informally advising the TSA. “You can find out very quickly.”

More than 80% of those approached are quickly dismissed, he says. The explanations for hiding emotions often are innocent: A traveler might be stressed out from work, worried about missing a flight or sad because a relative just died. If suspicions remain, the traveler is interviewed at greater length by a screener with more specialized training. SPOT teams have identified about 100 people who were trying to smuggle drugs, use fake IDs and commit other crimes, but not terrorist acts.

It seems to me that this is less about terrorism and more about policing human behavior. The saddest part is that this will likely be an implemented policy in the very near future and people will scream so much about saving just one life that many will accept it with open arms.

My own husband told me the other day that it is not my “right” to travel on American Airlines. Perhaps he is right. When I was studying for my private pilot’s license, he refused to fly with me. He hates small aircraft and he talked me out of completing my training as I was to solo. Well, I guess it is time to start flying again because I will refuse to fly with him on a commercial airline which demands me be treated like property. Or even worse, like a criminal.

  1. With all the Terrorist threats out there, this is the aspect of the story you choose to focus in on? Insane!

    How about the threat to our liberties from the Islamo-Fascist Terrorists? How about the Muslim Shooter in Seattle at the Jewish Community Center? How about the Miami 7? How about the Macinac, Michigan 3?

    The airport inconveniences is a very, very, very small aspect of the story.

  2. Um, I seem to remember that the Miami 7 was a big black eye for those fighting terrorism. I am not claiming that terrorism doesn’t exist. I am saying that movement toward a police state isn’t going to make us safer.

  3. And the Mackinac guys are reported as Texans. Persumably, they are innocent until proven guilty.

  4. Terrorists have not destroyed America. Cowards and traitors are destroying it. But hey, once we have no more freedom, the terrorists will have no more reason to hate us.

  5. The whole airport thing has kept me from flying since 9/11 aftermath. It’s just too much for me to try and guess what I can pack and what I can’t. (My debit card has sharp edges.)

    That said, I still think the best thing they can do is have all the passengers introduce themselves to each other and shake hands. We all have extremely well-developed bio-metric abilities for detecting something “wrong” and should rely on them.

    I think it was the actor, James Woods, who saw the 9/11 hijackers on a practice run. Actors notice behavior. He reported it to the airline and the FBI, but they didn’t trust his instincts. These days he wouldn’t have that problem.

    Yeah. A little cocktail party before boarding. That would work. This is one of those situations where you can’t make hard and fast rules or rely on machines.

    Then all you’d have to worry about is unattended baggage and somebody putting something into an unsuspecting passenger’s bag.

  6. If it’s the goal of the “terrorists” to make traveling absolutely miserable, we’re playing right into their hands.

    Step 1: Bomb in shoe
    Step 2: Get caught
    Step 3: Now I have to take of my damn shoes in the airport

    Step 1: Bomb in liquids
    Step 2: Get caught
    Step 3: Now I basically can’t have any carry on luggage at all

    What next? Bombs in underwear, so you can’t fly while you’ve got undershorts on? Bombs in your fillings so you have to get a mouth x-ray? Swallowing bombs, so you can’t eat anything in the airport?

    It’s completely the wrong way to look at security. They should just be doing standard police work within the bounds of the constitution instead of trying to tap, scan, monitor, and probe everything and everyone.

  7. “Are you smuggling drugs?”

    How does smuggling some drugs have anything to do with being a true threat to the safety of a flight, especially if they swallowed the drugs?

    I think that a situation will arise where in a choice between a huge drug bust or being vigilent, a bomb will slip through security. It may even be planned that way to take resources away from the really important work of finding bomb carrying terrorists.

    After we endure more loss of life, liberty and property from another terrorist attack, America will be smug in knowing that the much more immediate threat of drugs getting to the children will have been averted, Hallijua, praize jeezeus.

  8. You don’t have a right to fly American Airlines. Their planes and fuel are private property. Their pilots and attendants aren’t slaves.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that your rights should be trampled by the government under any pretext before you get on one. In fact, that’s not even a legitimate function of government. It should be up to the airlines. That would also solve the profiling issue. The airlines would be free to discriminate (aka profile) whomever/however that wanted to in a libertarian world.

    Personally, I don’t beleive the latest bombing story. I think it’s either a bunch of bumbling fools ala the guys who tried to hustle the mullah-in-a-bathrobe, or they were legit terrorists who the CIA/Scotland Yard et al watched for sometime and then waited for dramatic effect to apprehend, or contived entirely. I know it all. blah.

  9. “How about the Muslim Shooter in Seattle at the Jewish Community Center?”

    I thought that guy was Christian.

  10. I am sorry, I was going to post something civil and possibly constructive but I was misdirected by Michelle’s *gorgeous* picture…

    Anyways, I agree with David.

  11. David: “In a libertarian world”, the government would not be restricting your choice, and you would have the option to fly Sheeple Airlines where passengers must disrobe and submit to cavity searches, or Freedom Airlines where if you don’t have a weapon one will be provided, or any number of competing airlines offering a range of services in between.

  12. Instead of bitching you feel like a piece of property, what is your solution? Its so easy to complain but i dont hear any better ideas coming from anyone.

    How would you feel if you were on a plane and someone was going to blow it up with something that could have been prevented? Will you be sitting in your chair feeling good about yourself, feeling happy you have your hand lotion in the overheard compartment as you are about to be blown out the side of a plane because you felt violated by a simple search?

    They may be taking it a little far, but id rather it be a little far and submit to a couple minute search to feel a little safer rather than have no searching at all and you can blow a plane up with whatever you felt like. As i stated in the beginning, what is your solution? No bag checks at all? That will work wonders im sure. We should just trust everyone all the time and let people carry on whatever they want. If you have nothing to hide quit whining and just let them check

  13. Damaged Justice has it right. The airlines should be responsible for their own security and consumers should have a choice. I will gladly trade the minimal extra risk to be left alone.

    On a related note what evidence is there for the current “plot”? No explosives, no plane tickets, just a bunch of brown guys in jail that can’t talk to their lawyers.

  14. If the airlines are private then your husband is correct, you don’t have a right to them. However, the airlines recieve a large amount public funding (bailouts) so the issue becomes a mess. The anwser which has been spouted damaged justice and Andrew already.

  15. As long as the government is attached to the airline industry in both funds and regulation, there is no solution that anyone can reasonably offer. I will take up my lessons again and while my license will still come from the FAA, I can fly out of little airports in D airspace to go places. Then, I can fly my own plane or arrange a rental with an aircraft owner privately. I am sure that nobody will ask to see my underwear and lotion then. They will care only that I have the skills to fly the craft and that I am insured against loss. That is a private solution on a small scale.

  16. Oje- the risk of being killed on an airplane by a terrorist is about the same as hitting megabucks and getting struck by lightning on the same day. Okay, I may be streching the risk a bit, but not by much. So my question is does this risk really warrant a solution? Keep a little perspective.

    If we wanted to take the this particular risk out completely, then added security is not the way to solve the problem. A policy change of would be in order. Say we take the original reasons terrorists hate America – which is our insane support of Isreal. If we were to do this we would be much closer to solving this problem.

  17. David W

    What would be the risk if ALL security in place were abolished and there were no restrictions at all?

    Would it increase, decrease or stay the same?

    I say we implement a no travel restriction policy anywhere, anytime and find out.

  18. David W

    Do you advocate turning over Jews to the terrorists and disbanding Israel so the terrorists will not bother the rest of us?

    Want to try out that theory too?

  19. You see Julian, in a free country, you, and anyone that agreed with you would be free to give money, weapons, and whatnot to Israel. What you speak of is no different than what the typical liberal speaks of when they try to “help the poor”, for example. You want everyone, through the force of government, to follow your plan, and to bad for anyone that doesn’t agree.

  20. Michelle has a point, but just to add to the stupidity may I suggest that everyone flying be allowed to carry a weapon.
    OK may that’s not so stupid.

  21. Seattle shooter = freaky BA.

    And the Michigan guys? They were going to throw cell phones at the bridge until it collapsed? Put them in a truck and overweight it so it fell through? Oh, that’s right, even the feds are admitting it was a BS bust.

    The fearmongering doesn’t play well here. Although it’s a big hit with Republicans.

  22. Julian-

    To answer your first question let me start by clarifing I am not a airline security expert. That said, I can think of only one case were a “plot” to do a terrorist act on a plane was caught in an airport after 9/11. The shoe bomber is the only one I can think of. While this was only on instance, it is still fairly scary so no I do not advocate disbanding all security checks at an airport. The point I was making is that the security checks must be weighed against the actual threat.

    In this age of every real threat to us as individuals is maginfied by 10000 by the mass media it is important to keep a level head. Personally, I side on ol Ben F when he wrote “Those that would sacrife liberty for precieved security deserve niether.”

    And no I do not want to be inconvienced to take off my shoes along with everyone else to be sure no one on my flight as a shoe bomb. I will gladly take my chances.

  23. Julian –

    For your second question about turning the jews over, I never suggested that. What I said was that we (USA) should change our policy of support for Israel.

    We are currently trying the theory of insane support of a country where our only real pay back is at the least the loss of liberty while traveling and at worst the risk of death by hands islamic fundamentalist.

    For me the risk is not worth the reward.

    And now for you Julian I have a question, are you advocating continueing putting all Americans at risk so that you can feel good about the fact that the USA is supporting Israel?

    David W

  24. David W

    I believe there are times when a person, a group of people or a nation must put aside personal desires and safety and take the moral high ground when it is the right thing to do. I believe supporting Israel and all other Jews worldwide even to the point of fighting side by side with them against those that have a burning desire to annihilate them to the last Jew is the only moral choice we have.

  25. Julian, the “moral high ground” you speak of is just wishful thinking. You are pulling a logical fallacy out as an arguement to uphold your personal opinion on how to run other peoples lives.

    Am I the only one that thinks using “morals” for an arguement is immoral? :D

    I will repeat: Julian, you are more than free to help out Israel in any way you want, but you have not one single right that allows you to forces others to do the same.

  26. Julian

    Lucky you that the US gov agrees with you. I for one can not muster the “moral” authority to advocate the killing of innocent peoples, be they Jewish or Muslim or Palastinie or American or Chinese or.. well you get the point.

    Although you may justify yourself with a percieved moral high ground I am saddened that you might have diminished your humanity to do so. There is no room to advocate violence when taking the moral high ground. This is not a personal attack and is only meant as a personal analysis of your position.

    David W

  27. I have to agree with Michelle. Airport “security” isn’t. Let’s stay on topic and stop threadjacking.

    The lines are unnecessary. The federal employees are rude and arrogant, at least in those airports I have to pass through. The rules makes very little sense. Why should someone with a military ID be suspect? Why can’t we come up with a common sense program for frequent flyers so they can skip all the bullshit? What about the 99.9 percent of people who have zero desire to cause anyone else harm during the flight? There have to be better ways of screening people.

    Until there are, I will avoid flying as much as possible.

  28. All I know is.. I am in the military.. I carry a Military ID, but the last time I flew commercial airlines, I had to pull three forms of ID out of my pocket each time I boarded a aircraft.

    I could not see the airport screeening as “safe” because i noticed that even in the X-Ray machine.. there was not much more than a glance at the screen as items went through. I had to pull my arms up and let the wand go over my body all six times I went through screening.. Why? I have no idea, but having to go to an airport two or three hours before a schedule flight is wrong.. plainly wrong.

    Government responsibility for security? For a Private mode of transportation? strange.. very very strange

  29. Not flying and flying your own plane is helping terrorism win. Although you may not agree with the actions our gov. is taking they are a direct result because of the threat of terrorism. So therefore if you choose not to fly because of a simple search the terrorists have caused enough frustration that you will now change your life because of something they caused.

    And the searches are a deterrant. Its like police cars, they would catch more people if they were unmarked but they mark cars to show police are in the area so you may think twice about trying something. Same thing here, if you lead them to believe security is so tight they have to try to find another way. If you dont have any type of security they can walk on the plane and do whatever they wish. I wish we could try the world out the way some of you thing and just watch the complete devistation because people would be able to walk around doing whatever they felt like whenever they wanted to…

  30. … In your world they wouldnt need liquid bombs, they would just strap it to their chest because no one would be searching them, there would be no metal detectors and they could just walk right on the plane. Too bad youll never have your way because thats stupid. Oh boo hoo they want to look in your bag with you standing right there watching them. Put it in your bag and get it when you arrive.

    But hey its your loss i guess beings you wont be travelling. Im from Pennsylvania and plan to go to Hawaii and no 5 minute search of my bag is going to keep my from changing my plans, especially since i have nothing to hide. Im not going to drive across the country then fly in some crappy private plane just to avoid a 5 minute search and i certainly wont cancel my trip because of it. And youll be sitting home because they should just know your not a terrorist and how dare they try to make sure you dont have a bomb ont hep lane. The nerve of some people.

  31. Oje, I travel often and I must say that I have not had to remove my shoes or remove my laptop from its bag in any airports outside of the U.S. What Knoxville is testing is akin to subjecting passengers to a polygraph. I thought that we are supposed to be secure in our persons, houses and papers. Maybe I misread that though.

  32. The argument that since I have nothing to hide so I have no problems with gov authority searching my personal property is an affront to basic human diginity.

    With this line of argument a person is basically saying that it would be fine with them if the gov searched them or thier property for any reason, any time. Since there is nothing to hide what is the problem?

    Down right silly. Just like current airport (un)security.
    I am glad that the current (un)security at airports make some people feel all warm and fuzzy but these people must recognise that what make them comfortable make others down right uncomfortable and feel victamized.

    The threat the desire to make some feel warm and fuzzy does not warrant trambling over our rights granted to us in the constitution. Stand up, be an American for christs sake! To many have died for these rights for some spineless mamma boys to throw away so they can feel comfortable on the plane rides to thier vacation spots.

    David W

  33. Great, another “then the terrorists win” argument. I never tire of those. And it’s spot-on, too. As we all know the terrorist’s end-game is to make a small portion of the population stop flying commercial. Terrific assessment, Oje.

    In your world of government knows best I suppose security will continue tightening until ultimately you’ll need a retinal scan, blood and urine sample, three forms of national ID and an expensive congressional permission slip to board a private aircraft. Will you afford us the right to complain then, or just keep praising your masters for pretending to keep you safe?

    In your world they wouldnt need liquid bombs, they would just strap it to their chest because no one would be searching them, there would be no metal detectors and they could just walk right on the plane.

    Typical straw man nonsense. No one suggested removing metal detectors from the equation or eliminating all security. In the event of further attacks, the airlines have much more to lose than the government. In fact, airline security catching would-be attackers would benefit the company. Private security for the purpose of securing the airline’s passengers, employees and property certainly comes closer to dealing with the threat than some slackjaw–who can only get a government job–glancing at a monitor from time to time.

    Private security personnel would do their job with a focus that does not include confiscating toenail clippers and cigar cutters. They may even possess the capacity to recall the regulation allowing a hand check of my film.

  34. Attack Oje if it makes you feel good, but I doubt many of you would really fly Libertarian Airlines that has no security check. Nor would you invest in it because you’d be 100% personally liable should be Libertarian Airlines be successfully sued. Sure it would be nice to go about one’s business without the government intruding…but it ain’t going to happen without an ideological revolution and our
    promolgating that it can is why we keep getting 1% of the vote.

  35. Mimic his absurd misquotations if it makes you feel good, but saying something doesn’t make it so. Who do you think called for a no security Libertarian Airlines?

    Personally I would not fly such an airline, but I would have no qualms about flying an airline that allowed its passengers to carry firearms.

  36. Oje – “If you have nothing to hide quit whining and just let them check”

    This is funny. They (gov’t) are the most secretive bunch around. If they aren’t doing anything wrong, why are they hiding? Why are there so many secrets? Much info is suppressed from the public that isn’t important to the security of the U.S.

    We have become too accustomed to trusting authority figures and their motives. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Oje – are you ready to have audio and video surveillance installed in your house? On your computer? Your phone? In your body?

    What are you hiding?

    I don’t hear anybody advocating complete removal of security. What we are missing here is common sense approaches that are minimally invasive and focused exclusively on their stated task. The methods employed are intentionally broad, not for efficiency, but to serve many governmental purposes.

  37. I’m all for anything that the TSA can do to improve security. I’ll let them do what they need to do to keep me safe on aircraft.

    Harold Hunter Jr

    Hunter Law Office, PLLC
    464 Eastway Drive
    Charlotte, NC 28205

  38. Define safe?

    Take a look at for a nice examination of relative safety levels, including the scenario of having a 9/11-incident occuring on a yearly basis.

    With those kinds of figures walking across the street is mighty unsafe. Should we have a government agency in charge of regulating everyone’s safety in crossing streets? That’s a lot more dangerous then the threat of terrorism!

  39. BTW, the assumption that “Libertarian Arilines” would have no security procedures in place isn’t necessarily true. Customer demand would drive what airline had what level of security procedures and the customer could then decide which airline they felt had the best price:safety ratio for thier taste. Some folks might prefer a “full risk” airline that offered dirt cheap flights because they didn’t bear the cost of security personel (although that may not be cost effective if they incur some other risk… or it may prove most cost effective it allowing all passengers on the plane the option of carrying a firewarm proves to be an exceptionally good deterrent), while other might prefer an ultra-safe airline that insists on full-body cavity searches before each flight but costs more to employ all the extra folks and equipment needed to provide that level of relative “safety” and many other choices in between.

    THAT is what a libertarian airport looks like.