Dem lawmaker: TSA should suspend behavior detection program

Thompson said his concerns about the SPOT program, which he has expressed before, were renewed by recent news reports about alleged profiling at Boston's Logan International Airport.

"TSA must regard this most recent report — the third such report in one year — as a clarion call to take immediate and comprehensive action," he wrote. "It is my understanding that over 30 employees have come forward to express concerns about racial profiling at Logan Airport. Surely, this kind of outpouring should constitute 'sufficient evidence to substantiate allegation of racial profiling.'"

TSA has touted its "risk-based" security techniques such as the SPOT program and a separate known-traveler program as a way to improve airport security experiences. The agency has been criticized for its previous techniques like pat-down hand searches and X-ray machines.

The agency said Tuesday evening that it was investigating the allegations that were cited by Thompson.

“Allegations of racial profiling in Boston have been reported to TSA and are currently under investigation," TSA said in a statement. "If any of these claims prove accurate, we will take immediate and decisive action to ensure there are consequences to such activity."  

TSA said its behavior detection programs were designed to "comply with DHS and DOJ civil rights policies for law enforcement and security activities and have been developed with the approval of subject matter experts, including renowned behavioral psychologists and experts in the field of behavioral analysis. 

"Racial profiling is not tolerated within the ranks of TSA, including within the behavior detection program," the TSA statement said. "Profiling is not only discriminatory, but it is also an ineffective way to identify someone intent on doing harm.  Officers are trained and audited to ensure referrals for additional screening that are based only on observable behaviors and not race or ethnicity.”

-This story was updated with new information at 9:39 p.m.

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