TSA’s “behavior detection” technology wrong 99% of the time

A program the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began in 2006 that attempts to catch terrorists and other criminals by their suspicious behavior has been wrong over 99% of the time, according to the TSA’s own numbers.

The program, which trains TSA screeners to detect suspicious or odd behavior in passengers, has resulted in 160,000 stops of passengers, including pat-downs and in-depth questioning. Yet only 1,266 arrests were made out of those 160,000 stops, mostly for drug possession and carrying fake identification.

Unsurprisingly, many are critical of the “behavior detection” program, including Carnegie Mellon professor Stephen Fienberg, who calls the program “a sham,” and says, “We have no evidence it works.” Other scientists say that while objective observers may be able to detect nervous behavior, there’s no way to tell whether it’s because they’re planning a terrorist attack or traveling to have an extramarital affair.

TSA spokesperson Ellen Howe puts a more positive spin on the numbers, however. She says the program has been “incredibly effective” at catching criminals.

Indeed. Saying the program is “wrong 99% of the time” sounds so negative. Why not say it has a success rate of almost 1%?

Via Boing Boing [HT: The invaluable Agitator]