NEW YORK (AP) — Transportation Security Administration officers at Boston's Logan International Airport are alleging that a program intended to help flag possible terrorists based on passengers' mannerisms has led to rampant racial profiling, a newspaper reported Saturday.
According to the New York Times, interviews and internal complaints found that more than 30 officers involved in the "behavior detection" program at Logan contend that the operation targets not only Middle Easterners, but also passengers who fit certain profiles. These targeted passengers include Hispanics traveling to Miami, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward.
The TSA told the newspaper on Friday that it is investigating the officers' claims. At a meeting last month with the agency, officers provided written complaints, some of them anonymous, from 32 officers.
The officers said their co-workers were increasingly targeting minorities, believing the stops would lead to the discovery of drugs, outstanding arrest warrants and immigration problems, in response to pressure from managers who wanted high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals, The Times reported.
"The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program," one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint The Times obtained.
The program, which has been billed as a model for other airports across the country, is intended to allow officers to stop, search and question passengers who seem suspicious. Specially trained "assessors" observe security lines for unusual activity and speak individually with each passenger, looking for inconsistencies in the passenger's responses to questions and behavior such as avoiding eye contact, fidgeting or sweating.
Passengers considered suspicious can be taken aside for more intensive questioning.