Whistle while going through airport security? TSA is watching you closely

Keeping you safe when you fly

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Taking off your shoes, belt and unpacking the laptop are common things we do when going through security at the airport.

Specially trained Transportation Security Administration officers are also looking at the expression on your face and you probably don’t even realize it.

Airports around the country just experienced one of the busiest travel seasons on record. Despite that, those flying in and out of Birmingham say security hasn't been that bad.

"On the flight up there, through Birmingham, I got through within five minutes and they were friendly and nice,” Cole Chamblee, a traveler said.

Just because you got through security in a hurry doesn’t mean TSA agents aren’t paying attention. Through its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques - or SPOT - program, behavior detection officers are watching and interacting with passengers looking for suspicious behavior they think may indicate stress or deception.

Some of the things they look for are obvious like if you are in disguise, but if you whistle as you approach security or yawn too much, you could be pulled aside by TSA.

Most passengers we spoke with had never heard about the program. "It sounds ridiculous to me,” Rachel Domingo, another traveler said.

Blinking too fast is also a no no, especially if the speed increases the closer you get to the checkpoint. Too much throat clearing could also get you questioned by TSA.

In 2015, the online news publication "The Intercept" published a leaked TSA document that details the SPOT program that supposedly directs officers to look for signs that someone might be a potential terrorist. Over the years, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have blasted the program saying it leads to racial profiling.

"I can't see it as being a very effective way of keeping people safe,” Domingo said.

In 2013, the Government Accountability Office said that TSA should limit its funding of behavioral techniques saying there was no evidence backing up the idea that the techniques can be used "to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security"

In a statement to WBRC, TSA confirms the program is still active and says its behavior detection techniques work both in the U.S. and around the world. TSA says the program’s capability remains a vital layer of security. TSA says it will continue training people in behavior detection to go along with other security measures at airports.

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