TSA Begins Training For Israeli-Like Questioning

10:09 PM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va.  (WUSA)  -- At airport security checkpoints across the country, Americans are used to taking off their shoes, going through body scanners and even submitting to embarrassing body pat downs. But, now, they may face a round of questions... similar to the procedures in Israel.

"The Israeli approach is a smart approach," said Ray Leone after he just landed at Reagan National Airport from Maine.  Like many, Leone is applauding the new training going on at Boston's Logan International Airport. The two-month pilot program will be put into action at one checkpoint at Logan on August 15th.

The TSA says it has enhanced behavioral screening of passengers.  Currently, the TSA has TSA behavioral experts in 160 airports.  Their job is to observe passenger behavior and try to identify people who may be suspicious.

The new training will take hat a step further and have those same behavior experts asking passengers questions.   A TSA spokesperson would not say what questions would be asked.

"We don't want to give the terrorists a road map," said Kavika Riley.  But he did say they would be small-talk type questions about where the person had been or where they'd be going.

Officers are being trained to study the person's behavior and answers to the questions to determine whether they could be a terrorist.

In Israel, passengers are told to arrive at least three hours before take off as they may face dozens of questions and could basically be interrogated with no regard to flight schedules. 

Supporters of increased questioning say it is needed in America.   Israel's Ben Gurion airport has not experienced a serious terrorist incident in 30 years.

While passenger Ray Leone admits letting the officers chose who to question could lead to profiling, he believes the practice is necessary.  "There's nothing wrong with asking questions," he says.  "It can provide the clue that  an officer needs to see detect possible trouble."

TSA spokesman Riley says in no way is the new pilot program  racial profiling. 

Ananda Gonzalez, who was waiting at Reagan National to pick up a friend, said she believes the program is racial profiling.   She said unless every passenger was asked the same question, the officers would chose which ones to questions...  perhaps making that decision based on skin color.

Passenger Sylvie Burns said, "As long as the questions are not invasive... or racial profiling, I believer national security takes precedence."  

But after a series of over-the-top inspections of innocent travelers, like when agents patted down a six year old girl,  made an elderly cancer patient remove an adult diaper and made a man remove his colostomy bag,  some wonder if the TSA can handle sophisticated behavioral inspections akin to Israel's.

Also, there's the fact that Israel only has two airports.  The United States has 450.

"If you want better security, you're going to have to pay more," said Leone.  The TSA says it takes $600 to train each officer in the new procedures.  

Written by Peggy Fox

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