Transportation Security Administration officers at Boston’s Logan International Airport are alleging that a program intended to help flag possible terrorists based on passengers’ mannerisms has led to rampant racial profiling.
In interviews and internal complaints obtained by The New York Times, more than 30 officers are shown to have been involved in the “behavior detection” program at Logan contend that the operation targets not only Middle Easterners but also passengers who fit certain profiles — such as Hispanics traveling to Miami, or black people wearing baseball caps backward.
The program, which has been billed as a model for other airports across the country, is intended to allow officers to stop, search and question passengers who seem suspicious. Specially trained “assessors” observe security lines for unusual activity and speak individually with each passenger, looking for inconsistencies in the passenger’s responses to questions and behavior such as avoiding eye contact, fidgeting or sweating.
The TSA said it is investigating the officers’ claims. At a meeting last month with the agency, officers provided written complaints, some of them anonymous, from 32 officers.
The officers said their co-workers were increasingly targeting minorities, believing the stops would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding arrest warrants and immigration problems, in response to pressure from managers who wanted high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals.
“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program,” one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint the Times obtained.