Boston to Would-Be Terrorists: We Will Chat You Down

Boston to Would-Be Terrorists: We Will Chat You Down

This sounds like a story that should be running in the Onion. Logan Airport announced today that it will be rolling out a new security measure, a technique it says it picked up from Israeli security forces. It’s not a new type of X-ray machine or some sort of awesome Israeli sleeper hold, it’s something called a “chat down.” Basically, specially trained agents will chat with passengers to root out any bad apples.

The name of these special agents? Behavior Detection Officers, or BDOs as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is calling them. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

The funny thing to me … okay, it’s all funny, but the additional layer of chuckles comes from the fact that I think probably 20 years ago before all the new airport security measures, TSA agents probably routinely chatted with passengers. Sure they didn’t have a set script, but if they were doing the small talk routine with someone and that person was cagey and weird, they probably would have pulled them aside. Do we really need to be told by Israeli special ops that talking to people is a good way to determine whether or not they’re crazy?

Note: If you’re flying through Logan and want to put these BDOs to the test, the TSA has publicly said that looking nervous and avoiding eye contact are two behaviors they don’t consider to be giveaway signs. They are keeping those signs to themselves for the time being, but borrowed a page from “Lie to Me” in their explanation: “Security officers are screening travelers for involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered.”

Despite some complaints that this technique is not scientifically validated (including from Congressman Bennie Thompson, a ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security), the program is launching at Logan this week and will run for 60 days.

Amy Westervelt is a freelance journalist based in Oakland, Calif. She writes about tech, health, and the environment for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. In 200 more


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