Aviation Security: TSA Has Policies that Prohibit Unlawful Profiling But Should Improve Its Oversight of Behavior Detection Activities

In 2016, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began using behavior detection in a more limited way to identify potentially high-risk passengers who exhibit certain behaviors it asserts are indicative of stress, fear, or deception, and refer them for additional screening or, when warranted, to law enforcement. TSA’s policies and procedures prohibit unlawful profiling, i.e., screeners are prohibited from selecting passengers for additional screening based on race, ethnicity, or other factors. Allegations of racial profiling have raised questions about TSA’s use of behavior detection. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to review TSA’s measures to prevent behavior detection activities from resulting in unlawful profiling. This report examines, among other things, (1) TSA’s oversight of behavior detection activities and (2) the number of complaints alleging violations of civil rights and civil liberties related to passenger screening and actions taken by TSA to address them. GAO reviewed TSA policies and procedures; analyzed passenger complaint data received by TSA from October 2015 through February 2018 and actions taken to address them; and interviewed TSA officials. Complaint data GAO analyzed alleged conduct that occurred at the screening checkpoint and was not specific to behavior detection activities. TSA should develop a specific oversight mechanism to monitor behavior detection activities for compliance with policies that prohibit unlawful profiling. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) concurred with GAO’s recommendation.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 46p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01708234
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO-19-268
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 4 2019 1:43PM