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Rights group sues TSA for ‘detection behavior’ documents

PHOENIX — A national advocacy organization has filed a complaint against the U.S. government for access to documents about an airport “detection behavior” program that has stirred racial profiling concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit Thursday in New York, saying the screening program was unscientific and ineffective.

An opening for a similar position had been posted for Sky Harbor Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration program trains officers to carefully watch travelers’ faces in screening areas for signs of stress, fear or “deception” and to pull those people aside for further questioning.

The Government Accountability Office reported in 2013 that there was no evidence the program worked.

GAO reviewed four meta-analyses (reviews that analyze other studies and synthesize their findings) that included over 400 studies from the past 60 years and found that the human ability to accurately identify deceptive behavior based on behavioral indicators is the same as or slightly better than chance. Further, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) April 2011 study conducted to validate SPOT’s behavioral indicators did not demonstrate their effectiveness because of study limitations, including the use of unreliable data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.