Could you by chance be a terrorist? I dunno, you look kind of suspicious -- let's tally up your terrorist points!
I originally thought of springing this on you on April Fool's Day, but worried that you would think it was some sort of April Fool's joke, demanding to know whether you could by chance be a terrorist.
Sorry, buster, this is no joke. Or are you one of those terrorist-loving Islamofascist-lovers who would like nothing better than to see us patriotic Americans let down our guard? Get real there, friend. Are we supposed to believe you're not a terrorist just 'cause you say so? You expect us to just take your word for it? Really? Isn't that just how a terrorist would react?
For that matter, what if you truly don't even know yourself? Science tells us of many conditions that don't have obvious symptoms, at least till near the end, and by then it'll be too late for us to protect ourselves from you.
Not to worry! Fortunately our TSA is on the job, God bless 'em! And while it took a leak to do it, they've now given us all the tools with which to spot terrorists. And we all know they're out there.
It was no accident, by the way, that I used the word "spot" in that phrase "the tools with which to spot terrorists." Because this is the very name of the TSA program -- SPOT (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) -- that now will enable you too to "spot" terrorists (get it?) whenever and wherever you may come across them. Okay, it was intended for use at airport security checkpoints and the like, but I don't see why the TSA system, a combination of checklist and point ratings system, shouldn't work just as well at the mall, in the cineplex, in a crowded elevator, at sporting events, or on the playground of your kids' school. Terrorists are terrorists, right? If you know what to look for, you can catch 'em dead to rights!
Now you may still need to root around to find the complete Terrorist Checklist, not to mention the associated point rating system, so you can correctly scan and score your terrorist suspect. Meanwhile, however, you can start practicing by watching for the telltale signs enumerated above, with this overview of how the system works, as explained in the post "TSA's Secret Behavior Checklist to Spot Terrorists," on The Intercept.
The 92-point checklist listed in the “Spot Referral Report” is divided into various categories with a point score for each. Those categories include a preliminary “observation and behavior analysis,” and then those passengers pulled over for additional inspection are scored based on two more categories: whether they have “unusual items,” like almanacs and “numerous prepaid calling cards or cell phones,” and a final category for “signs of deception,” which include “covers mouth with hand when speaking” and “fast eye blink rate.Rack up four points and you're going to require further screening. Once you get to six points, you've earned a date with law enforcement.
Points can also be deducted from someone’s score based on observations about the traveler that make him or her less likely, in TSA’s eyes, to be a terrorist. For example, “apparent” married couples, if both people are over 55, have two points deducted off their score. Women over the age of 55 have one pointed deducted; for men, the point deduction doesn’t come until they reach 65.
YOU GET THE GENERAL IDEA, RIGHT?
I*n the event that you aren't able to get hold of the actual TSA materials, with a little thought you can probably make up your own point-weighted lists, right? And who's to say they won't work just as well as the official ones? After all, according to the Intercept report:
Since its introduction in 2007, the SPOT program has attracted controversy for the lack of science supporting it. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found that there was no evidence to back up the idea that “behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” After analyzing hundreds of scientific studies, the GAO concluded that “the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance.”The Washington Post's Josh Hicks, noting that you can rack up bunches of points for "arriving late or whistling as you approach a screening area" (those are a point apiece) and "repetitive grooming gestures and tightly gripping a bag" (two points each) and "appearing confused or disoriented" (a cool three points right there!), ponders the math and ventures:
The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security found in 2013 that TSA had failed to evaluate SPOT, and “cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program’s expansion.”
Despite those concerns, TSA has trained and deployed thousands of Behavior Detection Officers, and the program has cost more than $900 million since it began in 2007, according to the GAO.
Under the criteria, additional screening could be required for a passenger who arrives with little time to spare and appears puzzled about where to find his gate. At that point, the traveler would only need to run his fingers through his hair a few times to warrant a law-enforcement referral.Richly deserved, no doubt. Still, there are nattering naysayers:
Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said Monday that the checklist “drives home the absurdity” of the behavior-detection program.Of course, consider the source: this Handeyside, if that's what his name really is, and ferchripessakes the ACLU! You won't be surprised to learn that they're suing. Aren't they always suing? Apparently it's not just Commies they coddle but also, you know, Islamofascist terrorists!
“Airports are rich environments for the kind of stress, exhaustion, or confusion that the TSA apparently finds suspicious, and research has long made clear that trying to judge people’s intentions based on supposed indicators as subjective or commonplace as these just doesn’t work,” Handeyside said in a statement.
Yeah, sure, maybe you'll get away with it this time. But just remember, the TSA is watching you, and they've got calculators at the ready. And with that confused or disoriented look, you've already notched three points.