A Transportation Security Administration program aimed at training TSA agents to spot suspicious looking people in airport crowds has cost nearly $1 billiion and is only as effective as flipping a coin, the Government Accountability Office reported Wednesday.
There is no evidence the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program actually works, the GAO said.
Beginning in 2007 and costing $200 million a year, the SPOT program was meant to teach agents to recognize fear, stress or deceptive behavior, which might pose a threat to aviation security, according to NBC News.
SPOT now employs 3,000 “behavior detection officers” across the U.S.
The GAO reviewed 400 studies from the last 60 years and found that these officers get results equal to or slightly better than those of non-trained observers.
“Available evidence does not support whether behavioral indicators … can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security,” the GAO said.
They found TSA officers were giving additional screening to passengers based on highly variable indicators, implying that the indicators are bias or subjective.
The GAO report calls for stifling funding to the TSA until it "can provide scientifically validated evidence.”