Behavior Detection Officers


Well, it’s a done deal. Midwest accepted TPG’s beefed up offer of $17 a share. I’m going to assume it’ll pass the antitrust review, so now all we can do is wait and see what happens. That means we can talk about other things today. How about Behavior Detection Officers?

I’m not sure why this is coming up now as being a “new” thing. USA Today first talked about it in December 2005 and there have been plenty of other reports since. 07_08_17 smileybeatdownBut it appears to be this recent article that has stirred a response. First, what is a Behavior Detection Officer?

The concept is that people have quick flashes of facial expressions, microexpressions, that indicate their true intent. Someone may have a smile on their face, but there will be small flashes of something more sinister if that is the ultimate intention. Behavior Detection Officers have been trained to keep an eye out for those expressions and then interact with the passengers to determine if there’s a real threat. This is one type of security that the Israeli airline, El Al, employs, though to be fair, El Al’s training standards are much more strict.

Of course, with any new security program, there are cries of anger. There was an editorial in Newsweek absolutely destroying the idea saying it is shades of “1984” and it’s a horrible, horrible thing. I have to disagree.

Right now, we pull over 80 years in wheelchairs and 5 year old kids because of random searches. This is a waste of our security resource. Monitoring microexpressions is a great way to limit the number of people who have to deal with extra security. At least it involves an actual method for identifying suspicious behavior, and that’s a big step forward from the completely random search. (Yes, I know random searches aren’t going away yet, but this is a step in the right direction.)

If it’s a false positive, that’s ok. People can be flagged randomly now, so why is it any worse if they’re flagged from this type of detection? To me, this is less of a violation of personal liberty because there is at least some measure of cause involved, unlike the random searches. I hope we see more of this.

4 comments on “Behavior Detection Officers

  1. The biggest joke currently going on in America occurs at every airport terminal every day. We are forced to watch as white caucasian mothers with baby strollers are all forced one at a time to unload their baby and carefully pass the stroller through the scanning system. Than we are forced to watch as one elderly person after another must be helped out of their wheelchair and through security as well.

    The whole thing is nonsense. Do Michael Chertoff and his buddies who run TSA ever give any thought to what the probability that these groups might carry a bomb or weapon aboard an aircraft is? No, they obviously don’t. Instead they run around like chickens with their heads cut off and impose a bunch of arbitrary, stupid rules on the flying public. One day I saw a bunch of women in their fifties selected at random for a personal search before boarding the aircraft.

    Your suggestion about using some intelligence in the screening process and focusing on things like facial expressions is a good one. It also will undoubtedly be ignored or simply added to all the useless crap currently going on. Yes, we ought to be racially profiling too. Doesn’t everyone remember it was 19 men of Middleastern descent who hijacked four airplanes on 9/11? Security screening isn’t about “racial equity”. Its about identifying a threat to passengers without making everyone dizzy from stupid bureaucratic rules. Now, we just have to convince TSA of this.

  2. Mark, You forget that we now live in a global community. What happens in one part of the world effects other parts. Those that are intent to do harm do not care how they do it or who they use. All reasonableness is overridden by the desire to strike out to make their point.

    You forget that on the world scene, terrorists have used the elderly, disabled, mentally challenged (whether they now it or not) to carry out their aims. There are now grandmothers who carry out terrorist attacks. They will even use their own children for such heinous purposes. Since TSA exists in a global community there is no way that one knows who is coming through security. It is a shame that so many Americans are whiners when it comes to this. Would they like to sacrifice their security for their life. Unfortunately shortsided and stupid comments like yours telling us that the 9/11 attacks were done by ‘men of middleastern descent’ show how much of a bubble you live in. Today terrorists are found in every country of all descents.

    It is a daunting task to keep ahead of those wanting to do harm. To guess what they will do next, to think like them to prevent something from happening. I am sure that if such security was in place and stopped 9/11 you would not be whining about the inconvenience now.

    Condoleeza Rice said something very astute during the 9/11 hearings. She said, “We have to be right 100% of the time, they only have to right once.”

    Whatever refinements have to be worked out with TSA, fine. Do not forget that work is constantly being done behind the scene for your security.

  3. Well, I only think this “micro expression” detection is again like giving guns to the monkeys. I mean, c’mon guys, I watched several minority TSA screeners absoultely ruin a white families vacation? Why, because the man, (who was a off duty police officer) refused to allow TSA to confisicate his department issued badge…because they said “it was a dangerous weapon”. I cant blame him. And when several passengers stood up for the off duty police officer, they were threatened by the TSA employees to be put on “no fly” list, if they didnt shut their mouths. And the funny part was there was a group of 5 Middle Eastern men, who were all speaking Arabic, that didnt even get a second glance…and several people asked why, and were told by the TSA people “that would be profiling and that is wrong and we have had to suffer that before and we wont do it to anybody else”.

    Yeah, I can see EXACTELY how this is going to go. Give more guns to the monkeys, and watch them try to exact a measure of revenge.

  4. I’m sorry, this “micro-expression” theory is total bullshit and a hilarious waste of time, perhaps almost as bad as racial profiling itself. People’s facial expressions vary infinitely at any given time for an infinite number of reasons, and people have many different reactions and expressions to any given situation. I usually end up forcing some sort of grimace-smile while passing through airport security because it’s stressful, irritating, and nerve-wracking. You’re surrounded by masses of rushing people, occasionally dealing with impatient douchebag security workers yelling loudly at you because they themselves are stressed out and irritated, all based on the premise that you’re under perpetual suspicion and may well be hiding a gun in your underwear (so, actually, yes, sort of like _1984_). Yeah, what an excellent setting for trying to ferret out someone’s “true” emotions and intentions simply by looking at their face for a few seconds. What a joke.

    And the fool above who thinks it’s a travesty to scan white mothers and the elderly obviously has no historical knowledge of how terrorist groups take advantage of social stereotypes. One need only study the Algerian civil war, where black freedom fighters recruited women to carry weapons under their burkas and went out disguised as women themselves to take advantage of societal stereotypes of the modest, innocent, helpless woman. Assumptions and stereotypes, including racial profiling, regularly fail.

    As much as I think full-body scanners are a crock of shit, they’d be less retarded and less random than having some pseudo-psychologist claiming he can read a person’s “true intentions” from a mere few seconds of observation. This facial-expression analysis, like too much of the field of psychology, is a pseudo-science that’s about equivalent to palm-reading.

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Cranky Flier