Home inContext TSA to Adopt Israeli-Style Screening

TSA to Adopt Israeli-Style Screening

Samara Greenberg

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners in Boston’s Logan International Airport will soon be carrying out behavioral inspections under a new program modeled after Israel’s airport security methods. Titled Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, the new method will require screeners to determine if passenger pose a security threat based on their reactions to a set of routine questions. “We’re not looking for the answers necessarily; we’re instead gauging the reaction, the response, to the question,” said George Naccara, TSA federal security director at Logan.

The TSA came under heat during last year’s winter holiday season after stories broke of its “enhanced” security measures with scanners that captured images of passengers’ naked bodies and pat-downs of intimate areas. In response, according to a November 2010 poll, 70 percent of Americans supported adopting the Israeli system for U.S. airports.

A TSA official pats-down a traveler.

However, after a tour of Israel’s airport and security methods last January, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano concluded that the U.S. could not adopt Israel’s practices. “There are many differences in the United States system versus Israel. Part of that is driven by sheer size,” she said. Another part may be Washington’s fear over profiling travelers. But the Israeli method of profiling is not the same as racial profiling since everyone is screened, and it actually works.

Passengers flying through Boston are about to find out if Israel’s tried and tested behavioral screening practices can be adopted to meet U.S. needs and standards. With any luck, it will be a success, and flyers will no longer have to remove their shoes before boarding an airplane.