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TSA is looking at your 'micro-expressions'

Published 8:06 AM ET, Thu March 19, 2015
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Passengers at a security checkpoint in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The Transportation Security Administration has a program called SPOT that lets behavior detection officers screen passengers' facial expressions for potential malicious intent. Mark Lennihan/AP
Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hugh Handeyside says there's no evidence that deception or "mal-intent" can reliably be detected through observation, especially in an unstructured setting like an airport screening area. The Charlotte Observer,Todd Sumlin/AP
People at security lines in Denver International Airport. The SPOT program officers typically spend less than 30 seconds scanning an average passenger for over 90 behaviors that the TSA say are linked to stress, fear or deception.
A TSA officer hands a passenger his identification at a security checkpoint at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images
A passenger goes through security at LaGuardia Airport in New York. TSA officers' perception of people's behaviors is inherently subjective, Handeyside says. The fact that many people find airport settings inherently stressful only compounds the problem. Sipa/AP
John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Just about everyone outside the TSA who has reviewed the SPOT program has decided that it's unscientific and a waste of money, Handeyside says. Mark Lennihan/AP
Travelers walk through security past a mural at Denver International Airport. Despite the criticisms, SPOT remains in place and has cost taxpayers well over $1 billion since its inception in 2007. The SPOT program should be terminated, Handeyside says. Chris Schneider/AP