Last updated: 11:32 AM ET, Fri March 20 2015

ACLU Sues Federal Government For Airport Records

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | March 20, 2015

ACLU Sues Federal Government For Airport Records

The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday sued the federal government for information on airports’ “behavior detection” programs, saying it believes the system leads to religious and racial profiling.

The suit was filed in Manhattan federal court, according to the Associated Press. The civil rights group wants the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to turn over all information about how the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program is administered.

Ostensibly, the program is used to detect anyone with abnormal fear or stress levels, and odd behavior that may lead to a secondary security inspection or the intervention of law enforcement.

"What we know about SPOT suggests it's a waste of taxpayer money, leads to racial profiling, and should be scrapped," ACLU staff attorney Hugh Handeyside said in a statement.

The ACLU said the Government Accountability Office and an independent scientific advisory group concluded there was no evidence that observing the behavior of people can isolate those who are deceptive, the AP wrote, and has been used to arbitrarily and unfairly single out minorities for further screening.

"The TSA's use of behavior techniques has given rise to numerous allegations of racial and religious profiling," the lawsuit said.

The TSA screens nearly 2 million passengers a day at airports across the United States. The SPOT program was instituted in 2003 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The ACLU requested documents pertaining to the program in October through the Freedom of Information Act, but has yet to receive any paperwork, partially prompting the lawsuit.

"The TSA has insisted on keeping documents about SPOT secret, but the agency can't hide the fact that there's no evidence the program works," Handeyside said.

"After years of requests and over a billion dollars spent, we still have not received independent scientific validation from TSA on the SPOT program," U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told Reuters in a statement.

The TSA had no comment.

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