TSA Behavior Detection Officer

I found an interesting tidbit on the TSA site while waiting at the airport.

A rude response from one of the TSA officers prompted me to see what their motivation is. Usually they’re stiff, but still polite. But still, does TSA offer incentives to those who “contain” incidents even if the TSA officer is prompting the incident by frustrating or belittling passengers? Is the overall security process designed to build tension and frustration?

One of the positions is a “Behavior Detection Officer”, or “BDO”. This could be either a euphemism for “race profiler” (which sounds politically incorrect no matter how close the ties are between race and terrorism) or it could mean they are trying to use psychological tactics to weed out the prospecting terrorists. I can’t tell for sure since their site doesn’t explain the roles of that position.

I’m guessing that their logic behind the latter concept is as follows: a terrorist would likely already be at edge. Making a difficult and frustrating situation and causing confrontation during it may make him go berserk, revealing him out of the crowd. Unfortunately, those who are most tense are the ones who are late for their flight. Under this presumption that means they’re the most likely ones to be singled out and even detained.

Possibly, but I’ve found through personal experience with those who have successfully committed suicide and have read other reports that those committing suicide come to a point of euphoria before its execution. If you find someone abnormally happy and content through the TSA line – that’s likely the person to be afraid of.

From either point of view, with their statement on behavior profiling it appears that the entire TSA process is designed specifically to add tension, frustration and anxiety on travelers. In other words, if some security member starts barking at you or makes a rude comment, just politely grimace and go on.

One more word of advice with the security screenings – Don’t Bathe In Glycerol Soap. Don’t even touch anything with glycerol a day before you fly out!

I got put on a temporary grey list at an airport for doing so – it set off all sorts of alarms when their machines sniffed my luggage and my person. I was detained and it took us twenty minutes to figure out exactly what chemical I could have had that would set off the alarms. It wasn’t until one of the officers asked if I had used a glycerol based hand lotion that it dawned on me that the soap I had used that morning was glycerol based.

The event that prompted all this? They are now scanning for video camcorders. You have to remove the camcorders from their case in the same manner that you handle laptops. The security officer wasn’t clear on this and was just asking if people had video cameras and mumbled something about how they weren’t allowed. I had asked why video cameras weren’t allowed and if that includes the new MacBooks since they include a video camera on the case. He then gave me the third degree. After some effort I went to another TSA officer who explained things more clearly.

They didn’t detain me and the other officers were polite as usual. Chances are that one TSA officer was a victim of the very same stressful environment he was hired to impose on the travellers – from that, I’d gather that it must suck to work for TSA.