(This is an item from our new blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Going to Disney World this summer? Don’t laugh excessively with widely open staring eyes — because those behavior indicators could identify you as a potential terrorist. Packing a Mickey Mouse costume? Wearing a disguise is another indicator.
Yes, the Transportation Security Administration’s embattled $900 million behavior detection program, called Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, is not just used at airports. It’s also used at theme parks.
TSA has trained security teams from SeaWorld, Disney World and Busch Gardens to use the same checklist of behavior indicators, which includes “wearing a disguise,” “whistling,” “exaggerated yawning” and “excessive laughter,” according to interviews and documents obtained by The Intercept.
In March, The Intercept published the now widely ridiculed 92-item checklist of behavior indicators used by TSA’s behavior detection officers at airports around the country. The SPOT program, now referred to by TSA as the Behavior Detection Analysis program, has been the subject of several audits and reviews by oversight agencies and congressional committees, which have criticized the program’s methodology and scientific basis.
The Intercept also reported earlier this month that the indicators were primarily targeting undocumented immigrants, rather than terrorists.
On July 22, 2009, TSA trained about 400 members of local law enforcement from central Florida — including SeaWorld’s director and assistant director of security, and representatives from Disney World and Busch Gardens — in the same checklist used by the SPOT program.
“They have plainclothes people at SeaWorld and Disney doing the same behavior detection, looking for the same indicators we look for at the airport,” a source told The Intercept.
SeaWorld and the Greater Orlando Airport Authority (GOAA), which manages Orlando International Airport, have long had close relations because many of the people flying into the airport are heading to the parks, which are also potential targets of terrorist attacks.
“So GOAA, Disney, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens all work together in the most advanced security measures,” the source said.
A “Certificate of Completion” dated July 22, 2009, featuring TSA and Department of Homeland Security seals, thanks participants for their completion of TSA’s eight-hour “Behavior Recognition for Law Enforcement” training, which was certified through Valencia Community College.
A representative for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, which are owned by the same company, declined to comment. TSA, in response to The Intercept’s query, provided the following statement: “The Behavior Detection and Analysis (BDA) program is designed to detect individuals who exhibit anomalous behaviors indicating they fear discovery and may pose a risk to aviation security. The program was created by TSA, using behavior analysis techniques that have been successfully employed by law enforcement and security personnel both in the U.S. and internationally. No single behavior alone will cause a traveler to be referred to additional screening or will result in a call to a law enforcement officer (LEO).”
Disney World did not respond to requests for comment.
Photo of gun components found by TSA officials in a stuffed toy in May 2012. (AP Photo/Transportation Security Administration)