The Centralized Hostile Intent (CHI) program is a research effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) to evaluate whether the behavioral indicators used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to screen for passengers with hostile intent can be reliably observed by Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) via live video images as opposed to in person, according to DHS privacy review report of the program.
The PIA was issued June 9, the same day DHS’s Inspector General (IG) told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that, “In 2013, we audited the SPOT program and found that TSA could not ensure that passengers were screened objectively. Nor could it show that the program was cost effective or merited expansion.”
The IG also noted that in a November 2013 report on the program by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative branch reported TSA risked funding activities that had not been determined to be effective.
“Specifically, according to its analysis of more than 400 studies, GAO concluded that SPOT program behavioral indicators might not be effective in identifying people who might pose a risk to aviation security,” IG John Roth told lawmakers June 9.
Roth said, “TSA has taken steps to implement our recommendations and improve the program, however, the program remains an example of a questionable investment in security.”
The SPOT program includes more than 2,800 employees and has cost taxpayers about $878 million from Fiscal Year 2007 through 2012, Roth said.
TSA, which has repeatedly defended its Behavior Detection and Analysis (BDA) program, saying it uses trained professionals, referred to as Behavior Detection Officers (BDO), to perform behavior-based screening. BDOs are trained to identify passengers exemplifying a discrete subset of behavioral indicators to inform risk based screening decisions.
DHS’s Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) said the CHI initiative also is exploring whether behavior-based screening can be successfully performed in a remote (i.e., centralized) environment and to develop a unique and operationally relevant dataset to research and test automated video analytic solutions for hostile intent detection andtracking.
S&T is researching the use of video images of trained actors exhibiting behavioral indicators that mimic passengers who exhibit suspicious behaviors with hostile intent attempting to travel within the US transportation infrastructure. TSA currently performs behavior-based risk assessment via BDA in multiple airports in the United States.
The CHI program “collects video images of trained actors posing as passengers, as well as members of the traveling public, at the Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport in Providence, Rhode Island,” the report said. “The program goals are to assess whether behavioral indicators of malicious intent can be observed by trained professionals (e.g., TSA Behavior Detection Officers) from video images in a remote environment.”
Remote screening, according to DHS, offers the potential for TSA toexpand the scale of its behavior detection program without correspondingly increasing staffing costs.
To facilitate this research, S&T is conducting a video data collection at the T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island. S&T presently does not have the capability to assess whether behavioral indicators can be reliably observed from video images in a test environment. Therefore, S&T is conducting a video image collection in an operational environment, DHS said.