Homeland Security Test at T.F. Green Opposed by RI ACLU

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


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The ACLU of Rhode Island has raised concerns about a decision by T.F. Green Airport officials to participate in a Department of Homeland Security field test that is designed to expand a behavior detection program that would attempt to determine travelers motives of mal-intent by monitoring mundane actions.

“It’s difficult to imagine how this experiment, using actors to mimic questionable behaviors suggesting possible ‘mal-intent,’ can provide any meaningful information beyond how skillful the subjects are as actors. Presumably TSA has concluded that the inability of remote operators to determine whether a person has ‘strong body odor’ or sweaty palms will not unfairly skew the results,” said Steven Brown, ACLU of RI executive director in a letter to R.I. Airport Corporation President Kelly Fredericks.

The current TSA program uses thousands of behavior detection officers in airports all across the country. The field test is known as the "Centralized Hostile Intent" will use actors to mimic behaviors in the screening area of T.F. Green Airport in order to test whether the officers can identify behavioral indicators by monitoring live video feed.

The ACLU learned of the field test when a TSA privacy impact assessment was disclosed in June.

Issues With the Test

In the letter, Brown noted that TSA's monitoring activities have been criticized by politicians, scientists and privacy advocates as flawed and wasteful.

In 2013, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office asked TSA to limit funding to behavior detection activities after finding no scientifically validated evidence of for using these indicators.

In 2012, over 30 Logan Airport participating officials found that the program had raised racial profiling issues.


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