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Flyers beware! You may be under airport security scanner

September 19, 2019 15:55 IST

The need to use behavioral techniques for spotting terrorism acts was felt after such an exercise had helped customs officials recover cash and drugs.

Picture this. You’ve reached the airport early, and are done with check-in.

With some time to spare before boarding begins, you decide to stroll around, when a stranger greets you and strikes up a conversation.

Chances are that the stranger is an officer from the security agency and he finds your behaviour suspicious.

 

The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) - the agency entrusted for civil aviation security in India - is training its officers to study behaviour of flyers and look for clues of malicious intent.

The security system developed by BCAS will include officers studying travellers at checkpoints and throughout the airport for signs of above-normal stress, fear and deception.

They may sometime engage in casual conversation to detect suspicious behaviour.

It is primarily modelled on the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) plan used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at US airports.

Around 50 officials, to work as a team, are being trained by instructors from the US.

The exercise, spread over a period of four months, is part of a joint training module that BCAS is developing with TSA’s assistance.

The two sides recently met in Goa to finalise the joint training module.

Besides behaviour detection, it would also include training to develop anti-sabotage techniques to prevent attacks of insider hands and for better use of sniffer dogs.

“We are training our officers in behavioral study in order to identify potential threats from a passenger’s behaviour.

"This is part of enhancing the multi- layered regimen of improving airport security and targeted security,” an official briefed on the plan said.

The need to use behavioral techniques for spotting terrorism acts was felt after such an exercise had helped customs officials recover cash and drugs.

“Anyone engaging in criminal activity or about to carry out an attack will not be able to hide signs of nervousness, anxiousness or other suspicious characteristics.

"A trained set of eyes can identify and prevent those.

"We have been able to stop a lot of smuggling using this technique,” the official said.

The agency will also impart training on profiling so that there’s no bias or discrimination based on caste, creed or religion.

“Our module will try to ensure elimination of causes which are subjective. It will be more of a standard process.

"This will ensure that passengers don’t get harassed due to a personnel’s prejudice,” the official added.

Worldwide, the use of behaviour study is picking up as aviation is vulnerable to terrorist activities.

Among others, London’s Heathrow Airport is using behavior-detection officers.

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to use sensors to spot non-verbal behaviour, and track down terrorists as they walk through a corridor.

However, the effectiveness of such schemes to prevent terrorism activities have been heavily questioned abroad.

Photograph: Courtesy, Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi Int'l Airport (Image is for representation purpose only)

Arindam Majumder in New Delhi
Source: source
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