Bennie Thompson raises concerns about TSA ‘chat downs’

The TSA was expected to begin testing the program for 60 days at Boston’s Logan Airport. Under the proposal, travelers will be interviewed to assess suspicious behavior by their reactions to certain questions.

The information would then be used as the basis of a known-traveler program which advocates say could reduce wait times at airport security checkpoints for frequent fliers because every passenger would not have to be checked exactly the same way.

But Democrats on the committee, which oversees the TSA, say they have concerns about the program. Among them is how representative the information gathered during the pilot program in Boston will be.

“It is my understanding that the pilot program will begin on August 15, 2011 and will end on or about October 15, 2011,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole. “Although the (behavior detection observers) may not have interviewed a sufficient number of passengers to yield a statistically significant result during this 60 day period, TSA representatives indicated during the briefing that the agency plans on using the results of the pilot to determine whether the ‘assessor’ program should be expanded.”

The Hill