Thompson letter prompts TSA investigation

HONOLULU — The Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it is investigating allegations that screeners at Honolulu International Airport have targeted Mexican travelers for extra screening.

The allegations “resulted in launching an immediate and thorough investigation of the behavior detection program at HNL,” the TSA said in a statement, referring to Honolulu’s airport code. “Pending the completion of the investigation, TSA also provided HNL Behavior Detection Officers refresher training to ensure the program is focused solely on identifying suspicious behaviors.”

The statement was in response to a recent letter from U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. His Nov. 22 letter cited a report by Honolulu television station KITV, in which two TSA employees alleged that officers known as “Mexicutioners” targeted Mexican passengers in an attempt to appear productive to supervisors.

Thompson, D-Miss., said he wants a suspension of a program known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT, which involves officers trained in detecting behavior, such as facial expressions, of those who intend to do harm.