We have been discussing how, while cutting educational, environmental, and scientific programs, Congress continues to spend wildly on defense and national security regardless of documented waste or failures. Even titanic failures do not result in discipline or termination for officials. Given this record, the behavior detection program of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) must be viewed as a relatively success. TSA has spent roughly $900 million over the last 5 years for behavior detection officers to identify high-risk passengers. The result? One-half of one percent of flagged travelers were arrested and the number of terrorists was zero.
After close to a billion dollars, not a single terrorist was arrested and only 0.59% of the passengers flagged were arrested under its Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program. SPOT is working in 176 airports to “identify passenger behaviors indicative of stress, fear, or deception and refer passengers” and their baggage for additional screening.
There were 61,000 SPOT referrals. Of those, 8,700 (13.6%) were referred to a law enforcement officer and, of those, 365 (4%) “resulted in an arrest.” That is 365 of 61,000 SPOT referrals or 0.59%. The reasons for arrest are predictable (1) fraudulent documents, (2) illegal alien, (3) other, (4) outstanding warrants, (5) suspected drugs, and (6) undeclared currency. The success rate of the program is likely no more than a random stop program. If you stop people in airports or train stations and subject them to questioning and a background check, you will find the same type of violations in the same rough numbers.
At 365 arrests, we are talking about rough $2.5 million an arrest for things like undeclared currency.
When asked about the lack of results, the TSA simply argued that it is working in terms of “deterrence.” In other words, you can never measure the success because it is the absence of an event that proves its success. Of course, we can pay a billion dollars for TSA workers to swing chickens around their heads and cite the same conclusory cause-and-effect rationalization.