ACLU sues TSA to make it explain junk science "behavioral detection" program

The TSA refuses to explain how it spent $1B on a discredited "behavioral detection" program that led airport authoritarians to believe that when they racially profiled fliers, it was because they'd acquired the superpower of spotting guilty people through their "microexpressions."

The GAO and independent scientific reviewers have found that people trained through the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program are no better at detecting deception than untrained people (which is to say, not very good). Meanwhile, the billion-dollar program has been used to justify racial profiling since 2007.

The ACLU and NYCLU are suing the TSA to get it to cough up the internal documents explaining why they've done this stupid thing; the TSA has illegally withheld these documents despite Freedom of Information Act requests.

Government investigators and outside experts have criticized SPOT as ineffective, unscientific and wasteful. The program has cost over $1 billion since 2007 and has been blamed by passengers and TSA officers themselves for numerous cases of racial profiling.

Today’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is seeking records related to any scientific basis for the program, its effectiveness and how much minorities are disproportionately singled out.

“What we know about SPOT suggests it wastes taxpayer money, leads to racial profiling, and should be scrapped,” said Hugh Handeyside, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The TSA has insisted on keeping documents about SPOT secret, but the agency can’t hide the fact that there’s no evidence the program works. The discriminatory racial profiling that SPOT has apparently led to only reinforces that the public needs to know more about how this program is used and with what consequences for Americans’ rights.”

NYCLU and ACLU Sue TSA for Records on Discredited ‘Behavior Detection’ Program [ACLU]

Complaint for Injunctive Relief [PDF]

(via ./)

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