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December 12, 2014

TSA Uses Discredited Behavior Detection Program to Provide PreCheck Screening

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) PreCheck program. The report, titled "Aviation Security: Rapid Growth in Expedited Passenger Screening Highlights Need to Plan Effective Security Assessments" (GAO-15-150), found that TSA developed and expanded a program (Managed Inclusion) that relies on Behavior Detection Officers to determine who gets PreCheck screening. GAO found that TSA did so to reach the agency's arbitrarily established goal of providing expedited screening to 25 percent of passengers by the end of calendar year 2013. Further, GAO found that TSA did not test the security effectiveness of the overall Managed Inclusion program. TSA took these actions despite GAO's recommendation last November that the agency limit future funding for behavior detection techniques due to a lack of scientifically validated evidence that such tactics are effective.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, released the following statement on the report:

"It is extremely disturbing that GAO discovered TSA developed and expanded a program that relies on Behavior Detection Officers to determine who receives expedited screening in order to reach its year-end goal for PreCheck. In light of GAO's finding last year that evidence does not support the contention that behavioral indicators can be used to identify persons who may pose a threat to aviation security, TSA's decision to rely on those discredited tactics to provide passengers PreCheck screening puts our aviation system at risk. TSA should discontinue the Managed Inclusion program immediately. If TSA fails to do so, Congress should act on GAO's previous recommendation to limit funding for behavior detection activities."

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Ranking Member of the Committee's Transportation Security Subcommittee, added the following statement:

"While I support TSA's efforts to provide PreCheck screening to a broader population, I am concerned by GAO's finding that TSA developed and expanded the Managed Inclusion program without having first tested the overall security effectiveness of the process. The fact that TSA did so to reach an arbitrary goal of providing expedited passenger screening to 25 percent of the population is unacceptable. Our aviation sector remains a desired target of those who wish to cause us harm. TSA's decisions about developing and expanding new processes for screening passengers must be based on sound security assessments, not arbitrary goals."

GAO recommends that TSA take steps to ensure and document that its planned testing of the Managed Inclusion system adheres to established evaluation design practices.

Link to Report

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Media Contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978