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TSA's "Behavior Detection Officers" 281

Posted by kdawson
from the picking-on-an-easy-target dept.
Stanistani sends us to MSNBC for a dyspeptic Newsweek commentary on the TSA's latest attempt to make air travel safer: the rather ominously named "Behavior Detection Officers" now working in a dozen US airports, and slated to go nationwide in 2008. They are trained in the discipline of reading "micro-expressions." The editorialist calls that a pseudo-science, but in fact it's a well-understood skill that can be taught and learned. A cursory look at this TSA program might put one in mind of Orwell's "facecrime," and that's the road the Newsweek writer goes down. Yet some who bemoan the security theater historically run by the TSA point to the gold standard of airport security, Tel Aviv airport, and wonder why TSA officers can't act more like the Israelis. Bruce Schneier wrote recently about one reason why the Israeli security model isn't completely transplantable to these shores: scale. And here's Schneier's take on behavioral profiling from a year ago. That's what the BDOs will be trying for: scrutinizing intent instead of pocket knives. Let's just hope they don't get swamped with false positives.
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TSA's "Behavior Detection Officers"

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  • Okay, and? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:08AM (#20274981)
    What is there to worry about? Odds are you're safe if you don't sweat (quite literally)
    • Re:Okay, and? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:44AM (#20275175)
      Some people (like me) just tend to sweat more than others. BTW, fear in the security line doesn't have to be caused by being afraid of being caught -- it might be just the fear of flying.


      -b.

      • Re:Okay, and? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kypper (446750) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:02AM (#20275273)
        Or a fear of a false positive... because god knows, those delays don't impact or affect you psychologically, nor do they fuck with your schedule and cause you to miss your plane...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SL Baur (19540)
        I hope you're not really a bosozoku. I've been woken up from sleep too many times by bosozoku and seen too many incidents to not consider them terrorists of a sort - it is not reasonable to surround a car and shout obscenities at the driver, ever. If you are, you are the kind of person these people should be picking out. Kawaiiso.

        Yeah, well the only place I'm flying to right now (to/from Manila) it's impossible not to sweat a little. And if I'm a little bit tense in line, it's because I hate no-smoking
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by b0s0z0ku (752509)
          I don't mind the security at NAIA - there really are troubled people who like to blow up airports and stuff there, but the security and the ominous color alert messages over the loud speaker at SFO are just annoying and a joke.

          That's one of the annoyances with the States -- you feel like an unruly little child all the time on public transport. At airports, on trains, whatever, you get those recorded voices that sound like your 3rd grade schoolteacher admonishing you not to do this or to do that. In Pol

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by SL Baur (19540)

            That's one of the annoyances with the States -- you feel like an unruly little child all the time on public transport.

            I haven't noticed that on short runs, like city buses and commuter trains. I have heard they do that for Greyhound and Amtrak. Be serious! Are would-be terrorists going to torture themselves for their final days on a bus or a train, or travel in style in a rental car (a hotwired stolen car would work as well) a la a Jack Clancy novel?

            If I'm riding a bus in Mindanao, I don't mind security stops. I've heard too many 1st person stories about captured buses and kidnapped people. I don't know what the AFP

            • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
              I haven't noticed that on short runs, like city buses and commuter trains.

              Happens all the time on the NYC commuter trains, not so much on city buses or the subway (or else the subway is loud enough to drown out the stupid announcements which no one listens to anyway).

              On the commuter trains, you often heard this:
              "If you see any suspicious activity, please call the New Jersey Transit Police at 800-TIPS-NJT. Please make sure to take your belongings and baggage with you when leaving the train (no shit, re

    • by falsified (638041)
      It's not even that. The entire article is about improving an ALREADY EXISTING security structure. There is no infringement here. They already do random searching - anything that's going to increase their probability of actually finding something without doing some sort of background check on each passenger (imagine THAT!) is fine by me.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I have PTSD as a result of child abuse. I am always extremely self-conscious and paranoid around crowds, and especially around men who have authority. I wouldn't be surprised if I was a false positive every time I stepped foot inside an airport that staffs these guys. This kind of "security" is completely uncalled for. Every new step they take in trying to increase airport security does one thing and one thing only: increase the *illusion* that we're safer, all the while creating unneeded hassle for ord
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:10AM (#20274989)
    The Israeli airline has been profiling passengers all sorts of ways for decades. This sounds a lot like one of the methods they employ.
    • by David Jao (2759)

      The Israeli airline has been profiling passengers all sorts of ways for decades. This sounds a lot like one of the methods they employ.

      The difference is that the Israeli airline agents interview you one-on-one for an hour or two during the process, which is a lot more reliable than judging someone based on one or two face glimpses. Also, there are no artificial setups such as having an agent pretend to be another passenger, which was one of the things described in the article. In the Israeli airlines you know what's going on and they are up front about it.

  • smile, smile, smile (Score:3, Interesting)

    by m0llusk (789903) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:16AM (#20275021) Journal
    So smile, smile, smile, especially while you take your shoes off as ordered and surrender your fluids. Or just drive instead.
  • "Gold standard" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Metasquares (555685) <slashdot@[ ]asquared.com ['met' in gap]> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:17AM (#20275025) Homepage
    Israeli security is the "gold standard" because it needs to be.
    • And just to clarify, when the parent said "gold standard", he was meaning to say that Israeli security is very good; he was not referring to the monetary policy. I just wanted to avoid confusion there.
    • Small country, few airports (one international?) and the USA picks up their defense budget because we were stupid and didn't think the displaced Arabs would be pissed.

      Just cause it works there, etc...
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:17AM (#20275029) Journal
    For a different take on (what I assume is) the same program, read this article [baltimoresun.com]. I think the writer of TFA may be overreacting - in this article, an officer simply noticed someone acting suspiciously, and it turned out that he was carrying a 9 mm handgun and thirty rounds without a permit. No trick, no "micro-expressions", just good old-fashioned alertness.
    • by athmanb (100367)
      The problem here is selective attention.

      You quoted the one case where a police officer noticed someone acting "suspiciously" and ended up being right.
      You didn't quote the 1000 other cases everywhere around the country - not just in airports - where police bother someone who they think acts suspiciously and end up as a false alert.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by langelgjm (860756)

        The problem here is selective attention. You quoted the one case where a police officer noticed someone acting "suspiciously" and ended up being right. You didn't quote the 1000 other cases everywhere around the country - not just in airports - where police bother someone who they think acts suspiciously and end up as a false alert.

        First of all, these are not police, these are TSA officers. They work in airports, the article is about airports, and our discussion is about airports. It's not as if these peop

        • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @04:20PM (#20279279) Journal

          First of all, these are not police, these are TSA officers.

          So, does that mean I can ignore them? I mean, if they're not police, they're just regular citizens. The most they can do is talk to the airlines and ask that I not be allowed to board. On the other hand, that's a great basis for me to sue the airlines. I mean, I paid them for a service, and they're denying it. The only way out of that is, of course, to have TSA screening as a part of the contract. Or are you willing to admit that the TSA is a federal police force, and so they do have authority to arrest you or force a search upon you?

          They work in airports, the article is about airports, and our discussion is about airports. It's not as if these people are walking around on every street, stopping and questioning whomever they please.

          Well, that's good to know. You do realize that a lot of people at airports are there to see other people off, right? And given that airport security will screen family that's seeing someone off, I can only imagine that the TSA does as well. So, sure, the TSA isn't "out on every street". They are screening people who aren't flying, though.

          Third, when you enter an airport, like it or not, you WILL be put under a greater level of scrutiny than in many other places. There aren't many other places where you're asked to discard you water bottle, take off your shoes, and have your bag X-rayed before you'll be let in.

          In short, because the TSA is unreasonable in its security, we should expect more unreasonable security procedures and not complain about it. Yea, that's *totally* logical...

          Finally, this appears to be a fairly new program, and the writer of TFA doesn't actually provide any instances of real people encountering problems with these officers.

          Well, since it's a fairly new program, we'll just ignore the clear absurdity of it until it rears its ugly head. I mean, it's like if tomorrow there was made a law that every second born child under 12 should be executed on sighting. Since it'd be "a fairly new program" and there wouldn't instantly be "provide[d] any instances of real people encountering problems", we'll just have to wait until the body count grows to a large enough amount to start complaining. And even if the law gets overturned, if Congress kept passing new second-born-child-execution laws, carefully worded to be different yet do the same thing, after a while we'd just have to accept that that's how things are. I mean, it's not like they'd be killing adults or the first born. Irrational tradition beats Constitutionality or sanity.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *
        Would you rather have 1000 false positives and 1001 safe flights, or zero false positives, 1000 safe trips, and 1 where hundreds of people die?

        I don't have a problem with someone well-trained being assigned to watch the passengers as they check in and board the plane, and if they see someone who's acting hinky, pull them out of line just to see if they're OK. That does not strike me as Orwellian or some nightmarish violation of our rights.

        It actually strikes me as much more sensible and effective than man
        • by falsified (638041)
          You want to hear the BEST SECURITY MEASURE EVAR? A separate fucking door for the flight deck. Fancy that.
  • by jack_n_jill (642554) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:18AM (#20275035)
    For Israel, all their enemies are Arabs. They don't have to worry about profiling, discrimination, or civil rights. Israel is not a country of equal rights. Perhaps, if they were they would have peace and security.

    We Americans aspire to be something better.

    • Nitpick (Score:5, Insightful)

      by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:50AM (#20275195)
      For Israel, all their enemies are Arabs.

      "Arabs" != Muslims.

      There exist non-Muslim Arabs, and there exist non-Arab Muslim groups (Iranians for a start).

      -b.

    • not really (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Weezul (52464)
      Israel has exactly the same threats as the U.S. w.r.t. terrorists. Ever noticed how all those South Americans whose families were murdered by the CIA don't infact blow up U.S. airplanes? Ever seen a North Korean hijacker? etc.

      Yes, there are demographic differences : Israel's terrorists are usually palistinian, and thus look exactly like Israelis. America's terrorists are usually Saudi Arabian, i.e. half African but nothing like African Americans.

      In fact racial profiling for terrorists would work quite w
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)
        You need to look up the lineage of your average Iranian.

        Also, unless you are willing to search *every* Arab, it isn't very useful to profile race, as there are many many Arabs, and your false positives will be huge, while some bad guys slip through. Behavioral approaches are much sounder(especially when combined with 'police work' approaches).
        • by Weezul (52464)
          Not all Arabs, just all Saudis. :) I'm not aware of any terrorist attacks *by* Iranians outside of Iran.

          Racial profiling obviously means "used in conjunction with behavioral profiling, police work, and other intelligence". I'm not sure you'd use it for passenger screening but why not place air martials using it?
      • Re:not really (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Haeleth (414428) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:38AM (#20275503) Journal

        In fact racial profiling for terrorists would work quite well in the U.S. and E.U.
        Yeah - racial profiling would have stopped Timothy McVeigh in his tracks, wouldn't it?

        Oh, wait, he wasn't an Arab. (Or even foreign.) Or a Muslim. (Or even religious.)

        In fact he was a white American agnostic. Didn't stop him committing one of the worst acts of terrorism in America's history, of course.

        Okay, so you want to look only at cases where Muslim fundamentalists are trying to blow up planes, do you? Okay, please explain how racial profiling would have helped catch Richard Reid, who was, uh, a white British-Jamaican man, who easily made it onto a plane with a bomb and would have succeeded in downing a trans-Atlantic flight if another passenger hadn't spotted him trying to light the fuse.

        But hey, let's not let the truth get in the way of indulging our xenophobia, shall we?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Please take off your tinfoil hat. While the vast majority of muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority of persons trying to commit terrorist acts against the United States are Muslims (and of middle eastern descent). Of course there are examples of non-muslim terrorists in America. This is why the air lines need to remain vigilant for anyone who happens to looks suspicious, however because of the high correlation between terrorists and Muslims it is only reasonable that members of this particular gro
        • by Weezul (52464)
          So? You give two examples that say racial profiling isn't the silver bullet. No one said it was. We're just saying that it'll help.

          Timothy McVeigh isn't too relevant to airplane security since he wasn't suicidal. McVeigh had always identified as Christian. He was more a death bed agnostic. No one want's racial profiling in all aspects of life.

          Richard Reid might now be under surveillance anyway for his past affiliations, conversion, etc. He's a fairly special case. You don't imagine similar special c
        • So because you cite two examples of a white non-Muslim terrorist, it suddenly means that everyone is equally likely to be a terrorist and profiling is useless? And why do you assume that just because profiling is used anyone who doesn't fit the profile is completely ignored by security?

          But hey, let's not let the truth get in the way of indulging our xenophobia, shall we?

          It's not xenophobia, it's security. The fact is that Muslims constitute the biggest terrorist threat against the US, so therefore profiling

      • > Ever noticed how all those South Americans whose families were murdered by the CIA don't infact blow up U.S. airplanes?

        Ever notice how we don't have alot of military bases in South America, or right next to it?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by reset_button (903303)
      The security model in the Tel Aviv airport isn't simply to search through all of the Arabs' bags. Everyone is interviewed, and the security staff look for these "micro-expressions". As a white person, you can easily be asked ten questions about where you've been, why you've been there, what's in your bags, where you're going, why you're going, etc. When I fly in the US, nobody asks me anything. Nobody looks at me. As long as I don't have more than 3oz of liquid in my carry-on, I'm good to go.

      As to th

      • Do you know the rights of a Jew in an Arab country? The right to be hung

        When the Crusaders retook Jerusalem from Saladin's forces the firt thing they did was massacre the Jewish population who had been living there under the protection of the Moslem forces for generations. Iraq had a sizeable Jewish population until fairly recently.. coincidentally their murders began just after the invasion/liberation (depending on your political PoV) of Iraq. There sre Jews all over the world living in Moslem societie
        • by vertinox (846076)
          When the Crusaders retook Jerusalem from Saladin's forces the firt thing they did was massacre the Jewish population who had been living there under the protection of the Moslem forces for generations.

          To be fair, the Crusaders also killed off many Christians by accident in their rage after they breached the wall.

          And of course, these were some of the same fellows who sacked Orthodox Christian Constantinople on the way over.

          And many of the German crusaders never left Germany and decided that crusading just me
        • When the Crusaders retook Jerusalem from Saladin's forces the firt thing they did was massacre the Jewish population who had been living there under the protection of the Moslem forces for generations.

          Dhimmitude (or "protection") does not give you equal rights.

          Iraq had a sizeable Jewish population until fairly recently.. coincidentally their murders began just after the invasion/liberation (depending on your political PoV) of Iraq.

          And that's due to the disappearance of law and order, not because US troops a

          • by CdBee (742846)
            And who's threatening them? The Muslims are.

            That's like saying The Christians killed John F.Kennedy. It's either a racially-motivated lie or evidence of a worrying lack of education in both fact and logic
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rand0mbits (1085639)
      I seriously fail to understand why he's getting upmodded for such a retarded, bigoted, blind statement. We Americans may aspire to be something better, but we're nowhere close to it.

      Especially illogical is this part "if they were they would have peace and security." Besides Israel, there are enough examples of countries with equal rights for everyone where (generally) Muslims choose to physically force their views upon others. A good example of this happened recently in Norway, where a Muslim couple-husb
    • by Isao (153092)
      For Israel, all their enemies are Arabs.

      Tell that to Yitzhak Rabin [wikipedia.org]

    • by vertinox (846076)
      Israel is not a country of equal rights. Perhaps, if they were they would have peace and security.

      Here is the deal. Being an Arab in regular Israel isn't that bad. They have even have Arab members in the Knesset [wikipedia.org].

      However, if you are someone who lives in the West Bank or Gaza strip then your life is generally like living in a prison.

      HOWEVER, if you view this as occupied territory and these land areas as not part of Israel then those people who live in it are not Israeli citizens but rather citizens of their o
    • Perhaps, if they were they would have peace and security.

      No they wouldn't. Israel won't see "peace" until it's been wiped from existence. Israel is much more equal and gives more rights to its Muslim citizens than most Muslim countries, so equality and rights are not the issue.

      We Americans aspire to be something better.

      Realistically speaking Muslims pose the biggest and almost only terrorist threat against the US, so profiling Muslims would be the smart thing to do. Ignoring security threats or pretending l

    • Actually, that's not the problem. If you knew the history of what they have been doing, you'd know that they've found that racial profiling doesn't help. Not only that, but placing suspicions on all arabs by fiat is impractical by scale. Not every arab is an extremist jihadist either, very few are. They've been victim of non-Arab terrorists so they can't just conveniently group people by race.
  • But I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea of people who are trying to scrutinize people by looking for subtle clues to their state of mind as they go through security and flag some people for better security. It's got to be better than the "random" checking that goes on now.

    The flipside to that is that I don't trust anybody I've interacted with at TSA to be astute enough to actually flag people properly. One *might* be able to get a few well trained people everywhere, but you're not going to be able to
    • Not necessarily. Random checking prevents anyone knowing quite who is going to be stopped. If you introduce a lot of profiling, all the terrorists have to do is send lots of people through the system until they find the ones who aren't picked up by the profiling. Then they use those people.
  • by stevedcc (1000313) * on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:20AM (#20275049)

    I know that airport security is a tough issue, and something that needs to be done right, but allowing an interpretation of a micro-expression to be used to select people for further investigation basically gives the airport staff the option of pulling over anyone, any time under this pretext.

    Do they collect statistics on how powers like this are used? In the UK, the police have had to start collecting statistics on the use of stop and search powers, because of concerns about racial profiling. The statistics have verified claims that the behaviour of the subjects is not what's being used by officers when deciding to search, the race of the subject is. Of course, this has lead to claims that the police are trying to find excuses to stop and search large parties of other ethnic group, to alter their statistics, without any probable cause (eg searching all passengers coming of a train for weapons, when they had no evidence that any existed)

    I'm not necessarily against this kind of selection, but I do believe that it needs to be implemented carefully to prevent abuse and unfair treatment of certain sections of the population, so that not only is the security done right, it's seen to be done right.

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:58AM (#20275257)
      I know that airport security is a tough issue, and something that needs to be done right, but allowing an interpretation of a micro-expression to be used to select people for further investigation basically gives the airport staff the option of pulling over anyone, any time under this pretext.

      They already have this option!

      This is designed to make that option actually, you know, useful.

      Even if you think it could be "abused", they can already effectively select anyone, for any reason, for secondary inspection. That's the whole point of trying to use some kind of behavioral cues, instead of just randomly doing it to anyone (or young blonde women), or only persons who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent.

      Yes, as you say, it needs to be done right. But please read Schneier's article [schneier.com] and the New York Times story [iht.com] on the topic.
    • by echucker (570962)
      Not to give the cops a free pass, but I wonder how many people of Middle Eastern decent are acting differently? The real key though, is why. I'd call it a safe bet that a lot of them are nervous to be subjected to scrutiny because they've actually done nothing wrong, but realize there is a good chance they'll get pulled aside anyway.
    • by legirons (809082)
      "allowing an interpretation of a micro-expression to be used to select people for further investigation basically gives the airport staff the option of pulling over anyone, any time under this pretext."

      a bit like 'encouraging' sniffer dogs to act interested in someone you want to search?
  • Let's hope... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robably (1044462) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:25AM (#20275075) Journal

    Let's just hope they don't get swamped with false positives.
    No, let's hope they do. It would be nice if there was some limit to airport security where it becomes impractical to be any more totalitarian, especially as the measures at airports are creeping in to every other part of society.
  • by ahfoo (223186) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:31AM (#20275111) Journal
    I can't believe the people on here acting like this is a good thing or that Israeli style air force security is a step in the right direction. I just saw a documentary on how the Israelis routinely cavity search ten year old girls just because they are Palestinians. The intent is not to find anything, but to intimidate them and their families from returning to Israel. Even Israeli citizens, particularly female, who have publicly disagreed with militarist policies are strip searched simply to humiliate them and discourage them from travel.
            That's really where we should be heading in America, is it now? So, since our Palestinians equivalents are the Mexicans then I suppose our lovely new Israeli style airport security policy ought to include strip searching and fondling all young Mexican girls in order to discourage them from travel. I mean after all, that's the example the Israelis offer. It has worked so well for them so far, hasn't it.
            If we really want to stop terrorism, then perhaps we should start by not dropping bombs on foreign countries and killing hundreds of civilians each week. That might be an even more effective method than assigning the gestapo to the airports.
    • Could you provide a citation for that documentary? Because right now, I've got a pretty strong guess as to where its producers come from.

      • by ahfoo (223186) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:08AM (#20275703) Journal
        Here's the information you're interested in. I'm sure you're genuinely interested rather than merely being one of these typical right wing assholes hoping to discredit any opinion you don't like by asking for documentation in the rhetorical manner of Rush Limbaugh or one of the many idiots at Fox News.
                  I'm willing to assume you're not one of those fascist cunts and that you really are interested in the facts. In that case, this is the video I refer to:

        Easiest Targets: The Israeli Policy of Strip Searching Women and Children

        description:13-minute video: Five women - Palestinian, American, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish - tell stories of humiliation and harassment by Israeli border guards and airport security officials.

                  In fact, you will find testimoney by American Christians and Jews as well as Palestinians if you take the time to watch the video.

        You can watch it at Google Video with the following link:
        http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-691161000 548687549 [google.com]

        In addition, you can download the torrent from www.onebigtorrent.org which was formerly known as chomskytorrents.org.

        I would say enjoy the film, but it's not meant to be an enjoyable film.
    • I just saw a documentary on how the Israelis routinely cavity search ten year old girls just because they are Palestinians.

      That's pretty terrible, but ten year old girls are a potential vector for terrorism, which is also pretty terrible. I'm not saying that the Israelis are right, but how do you protect against terrorists who use ten year old girls to smuggle weapons onto a plane? (Not saying they have, but if ten year old girls were never cavity searched, they would.)

      Bad as it is, it seems like discri

    • Well, the documentary is just half of the story. Why do the Israelis perform strip and cavity searches on children? The only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that Islamic terrorists have created conditions where such actions are necessary. Also, the insane hatred of Israel and Jews exhibited by Muslims does not exactly create an atmosphere of friendliness.

      To be fair, Israel's security practises, as depicted in the documentary, seem to be unreasonable and beyond pragmatic concerns. On the other h
  • by DocJohn (81319) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:37AM (#20275145) Homepage
    The MSNBC commentator called it a pseudo-science because that's exactly what it is.

    There are exactly zero citations in MEDLINE and PsycINFO for a peer-reviewed study done on normal people using this technique. There's one where it was used to help people with schizophrenia learn emotional cues in others. The only other citation was a book chapter (which isn't a study).

    So yes, when you have little or no science in the psychological and medical databases to back up your psychological technique, we call that a pseudo-science -- it's not a real, proven technique.

    And because of this, it definitely should NOT be used at airports. There is a great deal of science showing how lousy humans are at detecting lying, including nonverbal cues.

    --
    Get your psych on: http://psychcentral.com/ [psychcentral.com]
    • by hey! (33014) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:20AM (#20275353) Homepage Journal
      That's the problem with using the media's term. Look up Paul Ekman from USCSF. He has numerous published papers on facial expressions and affect. [paulekman.com]

      The question isn't whether the study of micro-expressions is science or not; the question is whether particular claims or assumptions about micro expressions exceed what is scientifically defensible, particularly whether inferences made from the study of micro-expressions are reliable. They're almost certainly, in this context, not.

      It all has to do with the nature of evidence. Evidence forms a network, within which inferences can be made. Any single strand of that network will tend to be unreliable.

      For example, if you know a person well, you probably could use micro-expressions very effectively. If you knew a lot about what the person is doing, you probably could as well. However, as a screening test, it is bound to be extremely unreliable. Even if you catch a fleeting glimpse of anger, disgust, or contempt on somebody's face in an airport security line, even presuming you are correct, it tells you absolutely nothing about that person, other than he is angry, disgusted, or contemptuous. Anybody who has done much traveling by air is bound to feel those things from time to time.

      This is the problem with all screening tests that look for something extremely rare in the general population. Even with a highly reliable test, the rate of false positives will tend to be much higher than the rate of true positives. This is the problem with random drug tests; unless you are testing for a drug that is very commonly used, you don't have a great deal of certainty from a positive test, unless you have other evidence leading you to suspect drug use.
  • More money wasted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dystopian Rebel (714995) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @08:59AM (#20275261) Journal
    This is more money impudently squandered.

    Passengers are not the only worry for airport security. For most of modern US history, passengers have posed little concern. At the same time, the US has had many international enemies.

    Airports are full of security holes. Other freight handling systems are full of security holes. "Appearing" to do things to improve security is a political strategy.

    The USA is not more secure. But government is much, much bigger... and has more power than a supposed democracy should give it.
    • by pimpimpim (811140)
      Indeed, it`s just politics, just like the 200 ml bottle rule. And at the same time having to pack tax-free stuff in transparent bags, so you can still generate money for the airport, even by buying bottles with more than 200 ml.

      Actually any article that involves texts like 'your for safety' you should read 'for our political strength'.

  • by davecl (233127) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:04AM (#20275277)
    Maybe 'it's a well-understood skill that can be taught and learned', but so is astrology. Does that stop it from being a pseudoscience?

    Perhaps that's the key - from now on the TSA can do natal charts for all passengers and use horoscopes to work out which ones are terrorists!
    • by Torvaun (1040898)
      I want all these microexpression readers to sit down at a poker table with my friends. If bluffs are still viable, then these people are useless.
    • i can tell by your angry dismissal that you're a Leo, please step in this booth for a search, sir
  • will be those, who already know, that they will die: suicide bombers. Nothing really matters to them anymore besides their mission. Perhaps this is what the BDO are really trained to look out for: exceptionally calm persons?
  • Flying Harassment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dcray2000 (969850)
    I travel regularly all over the U.S. I am huge on security and want me and my family to be safe.

    However, what security does the TSA provide? It's pretty obvious that any intelligent enemy will continue to change tatics. This became all the more clear to me when the TSA harassed my wife for more than 5 minutes recently about my 4 month old son's baby bottle. It was more than three ounces because he eats more than three ounces, this was a revelation. They also continue to harass me for 'electronics densi
    • by superwiz (655733)
      No El Al flight has ever been hijacked or blown up. Security is a game of chess. As a matter of fact, it's been said that all warfare is deception. Yes, your opponent will change strategies to mislead you, but you have to think a few steps ahead. There should be multiple independent methods of detection and prevention. This will be just another one.
      • by symbolic (11752)
        Funny you mention staying "one step ahead". The underlying presumption is that there will be future attempts to use the same method that is alleged to have been used by terrorist on 9/11. Yet, we have many other possible vectors of attack that are wide open. The face police are little more than a PR stunt.
  • How long before some news agency trains a few reporters on how to "act suspicious" without committing any crime, then sends them into the airport?

    How long before terrorists catch on and play this diversion game too? If the real terrorists can train themselves to "look normal" and pay some college students to "spoof the system" as a distraction, will that lead to another air disaster?

    In the game of spy-vs-spy, or rather the TSA vs. real or imagined terrorists, no technique is foolproof.
  • by redelm (54142) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @09:49AM (#20275557) Homepage
    Airport security has become like border crossings: the officials do not require any probable cause for searches and detentions. They can use any and all means, even arbitrary or hunches. That's the long-standing custom because their effectiveness is considered more important that the passers rights to privacy. If you don't like it, don't go there. Frankly, less arbitrary means will help their effectiveness.

    A much bigger question is whether these officials should have those powers. Whether passers rights should not be more respected. This is a deeply political question, to be settled by political means. Denying tools is only very indirect criticism.

    I would vastly have preferred airport security stay within the control of the airlines. Perhaps with federal "guidence". Then no question of 4th Amendment could come up. Or maybe "fruit of the poisoned vine" doctrine should be imposed: "20kg cocaine? Hmm ... that's not explosive. Have a nice flight, sir." :)

    • by Kandenshi (832555)

      If you don't like it, don't go there.

      I haven't been on US soil since 9/11. I used to go to the US a couple times per year. 2 or 3 usually to go shopping and such, give my money to Americans.

      I'm not likely to get pulled over by profilers(I almost always drive rather than fly to the states, and I am as white as freshly fallen snow), but... I had a friend who got detained at the US border during during February 2002. The treatment he described was despicable. It didn't take me long to decide to avoid travelling to the US unless I could f

  • Never again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cherokee158 (701472) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:06AM (#20275691)
    Has it occurred to anyone that there will most likely NEVER be another successful hijacking of an airliner BECAUSE of 9/11? Any effort to do so will result in another Flight 93. It's not hard to be a hero when you know the only other option is death...I doubt any group of American passengers is likely to sit quietly the next time an Arab with a box cutter starts barking orders.

    The over-the-top security measures at our airports are simply political theater and not effective policing methods. I can't believe they still have everyone removing their shoes...thank goodness no one tried to smuggle an IED on board in a bodily orifice. And if anyone swiped MY kid's formula bottle because of some Kubrickian fear of fluids, I'd be on my way to Gitmo for attempting to bend a TSA agent into a pretzel.

    Why can't they simply take a nod from Israeli Airlines and stick a guy with an Uzi on board each plane? Lord knows I've been on flights where his presence would have been welcome, if only to subdue the toothless trailer park escapee trying to open the window at 30,000 feet.

    And why aren't these same security procedures in place at U-Haul? After all, they haven't always used airplanes to blow up buildings...

    All of the money being spent on this bloated home security apparatus, all of the money spent keeping the military stocked with munitions, all of the money spent devising better prosthetic limbs before all of the returning veterans hobbling around begin to make 'victory' in Iraq seem a bit of an oxymoron,,,all of this money might have been better spent reducing our dependence on fossil fuels three decades ago when it first became obvious how vulnerable we were to the vagaries of Middle-Eastern politics. If we'd spent even half the money we have wasted making ourselves feel safe from threats both real and imaginary since 9/11 on alternative fuel research ten years ago, Bin Laden would be penniless and living quietly in a tent in some arid desert, pulling the legs off of scorpions for his sick amusement, instead of enjoying eternal life as the bogeyman of the 21st century.

    It would be wise to remember that, througout history, many more people have been killed or imprisoned by their own government than any foreign power. It's probably not such a good idea to make it easy for them.

     
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      Why can't they simply take a nod from Israeli Airlines and stick a guy with an Uzi on board each plane?

      Because opening up with an Uzi on a crowded aircraft would probably do more damage than whatever makeshift weapon the terrorist had managed to smuggle on board?

      I know that the "people getting sucked out of a bullet hole" scenario comes out of the same Hollywood Physics book as the devastating hair-bleach and nail-varnish-remover bomb - but so do the magic bullets that only kill bad guys. If I was in a c

    • Re:Never again (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @12:35PM (#20276923)
      Has it occurred to anyone that there will most likely NEVER be another successful hijacking of an airliner BECAUSE of 9/11? Any effort to do so will result in another Flight 93. It's not hard to be a hero when you know the only other option is death...I doubt any group of American passengers is likely to sit quietly the next time an Arab with a box cutter starts barking orders.

      I'd go several steps further.
      • Most hijackings are unsuccessful, because at some point the plane has to land. Normally, when it lands it's surrounded by a small army of armed law enforcement officials. September 11 is the first and only time that the goal was not to land the aircraft.
      • Since September 11, many countries have adopted a policy of shooting down hijacked aircraft.
      • Further, since September 11 aircraft have had stronger doors with locks fitted on the cabin. The captain can just carry on flying while the crazed hijacker has to deal with 2-400 angry passengers bearing down on them at once.


      It therefore follows that only the most mentally deranged terrorist group would even consider an aircraft hijacking today. It's expensive, and the chances of it all going to plan these days are practically zero.
  • And yet they're STILL not screening the cargo that goes on the same flights. They'll look in everyones shoes for a bomb, but not in the fucking CRATES.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 18, 2007 @10:35AM (#20275893)

    Americans who are visiting Israel once or twice tend to be deeply impressed with Israeli security. Once you get used to it, however, it is easily gamed -- many of the procedures haven't changed for decades, most of the inspectors are 20-somethings making minimum wage and subject to the same levels of boredom as the TSA, and increasingly they don't have the language skills required to do a good interrogation. Once you've gone through a few times, you know what to expect and, assuming you aren't Arab and aren't "in the computer", you can pretty much choose the level of harassment you want assuming you know how to convincingly lie, which is not a particularly difficult skill to learn (and pretty much a required skill for anyone doing work in the area, on either the Israeli or Arab side). And in fact even Palestinians know quite a few ways around the system -- sure, they will be harassed, but it is fairly predictable.

    I once did a business trip that involved visiting, in a two-week period, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon (illegal at the time for US citizens, though plenty were there), back to Jordan, back into Israel, Egypt, then Israel again, then out Tel Aviv. I answered lots and lots of questions about where I had been, what I had done, etc etc, lying the whole time, never once came anywhere close to getting stopped. Again, it just isn't that hard...comes with the territory, for better or worse.

    Security going into Israel on carriers other than El Al is incredibly lax, worse at times than flights within the USA. So if someone wanted to try to smuggle explosives onto an airplane, in-bound would be the way to go, not out-bound through Tel Aviv. Given that the passenger profiles going into Israel are more or less the same as the profile going out, you'd make the same political statement.

    So yes, it is mostly theater and pseudo-science, but makes a great first impression. And folks are making huge amounts of money "consulting" with the Dept of Homeland Security, who no one has ever accused of being the sharpest pencils in the box, on various hare-brained schemes like this.

  • by dircha (893383) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @11:39AM (#20276411)
    It is critically important that every American understand what is happening here. The TSA is a government agency. This is not "vote with your dollars" and choose a different airline. This is your federal government detaining and searching you based on how you feel about them. Your government has announced it reserves the right to detain and search you for any reason whatsoever, including bearing the expression of one who holds that same government and its agents, for these very practices, in utter contempt.

    And through your hard earned tax dollars you are funding them and their cronies to do this to you. As much as 60% of your working life will be directly to fund the government that is doing this to you, that government whose agents are shouting and you with a boot on your head, with your trousers dropped, and an agent's cold hand - big brother's hand - telling you it is for your own good, that if you would only fall in line they would not have to do this.

    But don't worry, so long as you smile, keep your mouth shut, and fall in line, you won't be bothered, citizen.

    It is only a matter of time if we do not dramatically reverse course now. If this presidential election comes down to a race between Hillary or Obama and Giuliani, Thompson, or Romney, the decline will only accelerate. If we do not reverse course now, in 8 years we will very likely have passed the point of no return, where these policies are accepted by the populous, where the police state propaganda has thoroughly subdued them, and we will be unable to rouse them to fight.

    To avoid this fate you must act now. Get behind a candidate who you can count on not to sell us out to the military industrial complex, who you can count on to wrest us free from the interests of large bankers and financial institutions, who you can count on to defend the letter of the Constitution in its original spirit, for which the blood of many patriots was shed.

    And that doesn't mean just posting on internet forums. That means volunteering to travel to, to write to, and to call citizens in the primary states. If we do not get wins for these candidates in the primaries, it will be as good as lost. Now is the time to act to defend your freedom, or you will soon find it has been taken from you and it will be too late. http://www.ronpaul2008.com/ [ronpaul2008.com]

  • dont even get annoyed by namecalling in this post. because that has gone WAY out of hand.

    now this government is intent on detaining people according to their FACE EXPRESSIONS for god's sakes !!!! have you ever seen something like that ? maybe in nazi germany. even not in fascist italy ffs !

    some officer treats you poorly, you frown and voila ! youre in jail !!!

    dont tell me that this is not bush & co and republican bullshit. because it hell is.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @12:16PM (#20276769) Homepage

    I visited Israel thrice. On the first visit everyone was searched — in a remote terminal in El Al's [wikipedia.org] exclusive use in a German transfer-point. It was rather annoyed by having to drag my checked-in luggage (which I planned not to see until Tel Aviv) and re-check it in again.

    On the second flight, I went through a detailed search both ways — in and out of the country. Somehow these experts read my body-language as suspicious... First, at JFK, they took me to a special room, where they even took my shoes away for X-raying...

    On the way back in Tel Aviv, I was also flagged, and the searchers' zeal went even further as they took a test-shot with my camera (to see, if it was real).

    Only on the third flight, which was not by El Al did I escape the scrutiny. Either because Continental is not as paranoid (much to the annoyance of some of the Israelis on the flight), or because I was flying with my (very) significant other — a couple is always perceived to be of lower risk.

    Now, here why I was not offended. First and foremost, because the Israeli searchers were always extremely polite, well-mannered, and respectful — unlike a typical TSA asshole. (I don't know, why that is. Maybe, because America's low unemployment forces TSA to hire and keep lower quality people...) When they asked for my shoes, for example, they pulled me a chair, so I would not have to stand on the floor bare-feet. After the search, one of them escorted me all the way to the plane chatting and apologizing continuously and handed me over to the stewardess (cutting the line of the boarding passengers), who apologized once more.

    Or, maybe, because they weren't looking for bullshit like scissors and other implements, which no terrorist will ever use on a plane again, because it just would not work any more... Because now that we learned, that some hijackers may not be interested in ever landing the hijacked vessel — the passengers and crew will fight them head on (as they did the Shoe Bomber [wikipedia.org]).

    Or, more likely, a combination of both factors.

  • To everyone who says that this is jackbooted Oppressiveness, what exactly do you propose should we do to make sure that hijackers can't get on a plane?

    I agree that most items currently in place (putting toothpaste in a clear zip bag, requiring ID, watch lists, etc) are nothing but band-aids designed to make the government look like it's doing something. This is the closest thing anyone has to identifying actual intent. Yes, it's not fool-proof. Yes, it is open to abuse. Yes, it is based on something very va
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Torodung (31985) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @04:26PM (#20279347) Journal

      To everyone who says that this is jackbooted Oppressiveness, what exactly do you propose should we do to make sure that hijackers can't get on a plane?
      Nothing at all. They get on the plane.

      However, we must make sure the hijackers don't get control of that plane. If, by some miracle, they do get control, there must be little payoff and control must be difficult to maintain, and those facts should be publicized.

      As a corollary, if getting control of a plane remains easy and the payoff is large (or perceived to be large), there is nothing you can do to keep the hijackers out. All you can do is put everyone in a TSA-approved, pocketless, uniform flight suit and disallow all carry-ons without medical certification (pre-certified, doctor authorized medicine/equipment, positive ID).

      All you can do is to deny them weapons.

      We are headed in this direction because of the hysterical intent to keep all undesirables off an insecure plane. If this is truly our intent, status quo in-flight security to protect the airline industry from having to spend money (or brook government influence in their business practices if the government were in charge of in-flight security), then let's forget the patronizing baby steps and go there already. Bring out the jumpsuits already!

      That's the consequence of not securing the plane.

      Personally, I say put sane security measures in place on the plane and let them try. We need to spend the appropriate money on in-flight security, and we need to stop hemming and hawing about how it's going to be done. If we can spend this much money trying to sponsor a failing democracy in Iraq, we can find the money for in-flight security.

      --
      Toro
  • Lessee, the Administration and the Republicans (and Faux News) say that criticising Bush and the War are one step from terrorism, and now they're watching you (and if you happen to like to play with hardware...), so tell me, how is this not one step from Stalin's Soviet Union or Hitler's fascism?

    "How are they going to keep hijackers off the planes?" some coward whines, forgetting that the locking or fixed-blade box cutters that the 9/11 hijackers used were ALREADY ILLEGAL, and supposed to not be allowed, an
  • With all that it takes to get TO the airport, what it's like to get THROUGH the airport, having to negotiate wildly unpredictable delays, and after they've confiscated anything you have to drink, any food that's not dry, told you food on the plane will cost you $3 per candy bar and $5 per sandwich... After being questioned by several 90-day-wonder employees, most of which no longer speak English suitably, we're supposed to be perfectly calm and cheery and watch as another 90-day-wonder gives us the Larry-Da
  • Just for the record (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Saturday August 18, 2007 @02:52PM (#20278513) Homepage
    Flew out of Tel Aviv air port a week ago with a bottle of mineral water in my carry-on. No problem.

    I've been warned (and I actually saw a sign in the air port in France to that effect) that my return trip will not be so lenient.

    Shachar
  • What crap. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @05:37PM (#20279951) Journal
    TFA:

    Let's just hope they don't get swamped with false positives.

    Lets hope they DO get swamped with false positives and stop with this nonsense. Damn. What a bunch of fascist crap.

    RS

  • Yay Freedom (Score:4, Insightful)

    by $beirdo (318326) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @05:41PM (#20279983) Homepage
    This kind of shit makes me ashamed to be an American.
  • by turing_m (1030530) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:09AM (#20284937)
    I suspect that one of the most notorious behaviors detected and promptly investigated by the ever watchful TSA will be the attempt to conceal a large pair of breasts.

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