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The Men Who Stare At Airline Passengers, Coming To the UK 468

An anonymous reader writes, "The Economist's Gulliver reports on a story in Nature that questions the current airport security regimen," excerpting: "Over the past four years, some 3,000 officers in America's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have been specially trained to spot potential terrorists at airports. The programme, known as SPOT, for Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, is intended to allow airport security officers to use tiny facial cues to identify people who are acting suspiciously. The British government is currently launching a new screening regime modelled on the Americans' SPOT. There's just one problem with all this: there's no evidence that SPOT is actually effective. The whole thing is mostly based on pseudoscience, Sharon Weinberger reports in Nature." Happily, Nature's original article is available in full, rather than paywalled.
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The Men Who Stare At Airline Passengers, Coming To the UK

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  • If only. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @11:24PM (#32480216)
    The government can regain money through taxation. The violation of a civil liberty is a loss that cannot be regained.
  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Sunday June 06, 2010 @11:36PM (#32480296)

    But catching 1710 criminals is meaningful, for the slight inconvenience the others faced. What's wrong with catching criminals? Aren't terrorists criminals too?

    If the number of criminals caught is barely over half of the number looking for them, we're paying 60-120k/year/criminal when we could just roll a d100 vs warrants check and do a better job for less.

  • Nature and paywalls (Score:4, Informative)

    by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Sunday June 06, 2010 @11:55PM (#32480394) Homepage Journal
    The editor mentioned that the Nature article for this news item was not paywalled. It is worth noting that this is the case because this is a Nature news article, not a Nature research article. Had this been original research it would have still be paywalled.
  • by adbge ( 1693228 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:01AM (#32480430)

    Particularly, it makes me sad when people say that aversion of gaze is an indicator of dishonesty. Autistic or Asperger-types would be treated like crooks simply because eye contact is too overwhelming for them.

    Not looking someone directly in the eye is, in some cultures, a sign of respect. Specifically, the indigenous tribes of northwestern Ontario believe that you only look an inferior in the eye.

  • Re:Poker Players? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:59AM (#32480714)

    Who says he didn't?

    The fact that he's working for the government (who require only a lobbyist and a credulous legislator on the right committee), rather than casino security (who require actual results).

  • Re:Effective... (Score:5, Informative)

    by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <> on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:31AM (#32480868) Journal
    I severely limit my flying because of this. But last week, I got a "most expenses paid" trip to France courtesy of the school I work for. My observations:

    The most stressful part of the trip, as an American who DOES NOT SPEAK FRENCH, was US customs and security. French customs and security? Not a big deal. They treated me like a guest. Even though I spoke about 3 phrases of French, they were kind, friendly, and open.

    US security and customs? I was a first-class criminal. "Welcome Home", said the sign above security, after I had gone through customs, AFTER I went through the second, "baggage customs", and stood around for 20 minutes to get my luggage so it could get re-checked, all under the watchful eye of a few police officers. Listening to constant, "recording audio or video in this area is prohibited"...and the rest of the asinine security messages. "Welcome home - please remove your shoes, take everything out of your pockets, show your ID, your boarding pass, put electronics into a separate bin, have your shoes double-checked for explosives, and your bag examined because you....put the second bag of peanuts from the plane in the pocket. Now get patted down for a "secondary security measure, random check". Went to my connecting flight, had been up for 22 hours, 12 hours in the air, 8 hours of lay-over. Collapsed in a chair. Flight started boarding, I said "fuck it", and waited till most people were on. Got up, went to line as the LAST DAMN PASSENGER on a puddle jumper flight, and got selected for a "random search". Really? After I got into that same damn airport, I went through 2 customs checks, a regular "screening", along with an extra random pat-down, and extra "swab shoes for explosives", and an extra "bag check due to suspicious peanuts". After all that shit, I had to take all my crap out of my pockets to be patted down before I hopped a puddle-jumper with 90 people on it to get home.

    I went to France. Walked off the plane, through "customs", where I showed my passport, and the guy smiled and waved me on through. The end.

    Fuck US security. It's the biggest load of shit ever. And at the end of the day? The hang a fucking "Welcome Home" sign out. If I didn't mind anal probes, I'd attach a "Hope your ass is lubed" sign under that one.

    I was pissed at TSA before this trip. Now? If it's not paid for and at least 1000 miles away, or my sister's wedding, I'm not flying. Fuck that shit. Want to know why airlines are hurting? I'll give you a clue...
  • Re:Evidence (Score:3, Informative)

    by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Monday June 07, 2010 @02:42AM (#32481202) Journal
    "And the UK government seems especially good at adopting whatever kind of security theater stupidity Americans come up with and then making it even worse over there."

    Last time I went through Heathrow I had a five hour wait for a connecting flight. I walked up to an empty customs desks and said - "Can I check in to the country just to have a smoke", the officer replied "Of course you can" and stamped my passport. OTOH my missus has sworn never to go to the US on holiday again because of the bullshit she went through to get in last year.
  • Re:If only. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Monday June 07, 2010 @02:59AM (#32481264) Homepage Journal

    "Note that investigation != detention"

    I guess you've never had the displeasure of being pulled out of line and fully strip-searched because you've got a biomedical implant that sets off the alarm.

    So much for my fucking medical privacy, and so much for not being DETAINED, as detention implies.

    I think the 7th grade English teacher is calling your name. Might want to listen, yea?

  • Re:If only. (Score:5, Informative)

    by stonewallred ( 1465497 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @05:28AM (#32481754)
    Israelis couple their technique with some of the most thorough background checks and heavy racial profiling. Plus they have strict measures for searching of bags, and of passengers, along with armed and obvious crew, and armed and not obvious crew. If you are concerned about being hijacked, fly El Air. If you are sort of kinda concerned, but not worried, fly any US carrier. The threat of hijacking has been blown way out of proportion in order to keep the shrill danger, danger, danger idea going, and to keep allowing the government to concentrate more and more control. Which BTW is not the lead in to a conspiracy theory. Just a fact of life that power leads to more power if unchecked, along with he human trait of trying to make your job secure. Fuck all if I know how to stop it though. Anywhoo, I am not allowed to fly on US carriers or into or from US airports, so I don't care.
  • Re:If only. (Score:3, Informative)

    by ConfusedVorlon ( 657247 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @06:02AM (#32481876) Homepage

    How much of communication requires the use of the naked chest?

    A lot of communication requires that we see each other's faces.

    The problem with a system which encourages/forces women to cover their faces is that it removes them from society. It marginalises and isolates women.

    The fact that it is embedded in religious tradition is no excuse.

    Now if women really were making free choices to cover themselves, then that would be a different matter.

    Unfortunately the societal pressures on women to comply with tradition make it virtually impossible to separate the cases which are coercion from those which are voluntary.

    I don't see many Islamic men choosing never to have their face seen outside the home.

  • Re:If only. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mattskimo ( 1452429 ) on Monday June 07, 2010 @08:05AM (#32482272)
    I can actually see RyanAir doing this. They would justify it by saying that allowing passengers to wear clothes is a "premium service" as they require stricter checking.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner