Transportation Security Administration agents at Logan International Airport will undergo additional training following allegations of racial profiling during security checks intended to spot terrorists.
More than 30 TSA officers in Boston filed internal complaints about colleagues, asserting that they sought out minorities with immigration issues, drugs, or outstanding warrants, according to a recent New York Times investigation. The TSA is investigating the allegations.
TSA behavior detection officers and managers in Boston and at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, the two airports where enhanced behavior detection programs are in place, will attend a four-hour session on why racial profiling is unacceptable and ineffective as a security tool. The New York Times first reported these mandatory training sessions.
The special training at Logan will include discussions on how racial profiling diminishes the TSA’s mission, how terrorists don’t match racial or ethnic stereotypes, and how racial profiling violates the US Constitution, federal law, and the rules of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA. The class will emphasize that the purpose of the behavior detection program is to catch terrorists, not to identify other criminal behavior or violations of the law.
It will also include scenarios and small group activities to stress the importance of looking only for abnormal behavior and ensuring that race or ethnicity is not the reason for referring people for additional screening.
“Racial profiling is not tolerated within the ranks of TSA, including within the behavior detection program,” Ann Davis, the TSA spokeswoman in Boston, said in a statement.
High-ranking TSA representatives were at Logan on Friday to address the charges of racial profiling, and TSA administrator John Pistole discussed the allegations at an employee meeting at the Detroit airport the day before.
“We acknowledge the TSA’s swift response and will continue to work with them to ensure security at Logan is legal, effective, and does not use racial profiling,” David Mackey, interim chief executive of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, said in a statement.
Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, directed Pistole to improve data collection on the behavior detection program and review its procedures with a civil rights consultant. Homeland Security has also ordered all behavior detection officers nationwide to take a two-hour online refresher course on the core principles of the program.
In 2003, Logan became the first airport in the United States to put a behavior detection program in place to identify suspicious passengers based on body language, appearance, and responses to questions. It is now used at 161 airports.
Last summer, Logan became the first US airport to test enhanced measures by asking all travelers passing through certain security checkpoint questions such as, “How long have you been here?” If that person is deemed suspicious, he is taken aside for additional screening.Katie Johnston can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.