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WaPo: Grieving passenger is questioned as a possible terrorist because of his facial expressions

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Newsjock Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 05:43 PM
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WaPo: Grieving passenger is questioned as a possible terrorist because of his facial expressions
Sad to say, the government adviser who wrote this piece seems to think that this was a GOOD thing. But the story is compelling nonetheless.

The man in the cheap brown jacket stood slumped in line, staring at the ground. His hands were fidgety, reaching repeatedly into his inside jacket pocket, or patting it from the outside. A momentary look of anguish, just 1/15th of a second or so, occasionally flashed across his face -- the inner corners of his eyebrows would go up, so that his brows sloped down from the center of his forehead, his cheeks would rise, and the corners of his lips would pull down slightly. He was exhibiting what I call a micro-expression, a sign of an emotion being concealed.

The question was: What was he concealing? And why?

To the behavior-detection officers I was with at Boston's Logan International Airport, his combination of mannerisms -- the micro-expression, the slumped posture, the pocket-patting -- was unusual enough to raise a red flag. They called a uniformed state police officer, who asked the man the purpose of his travel. It turned out that he was on the way to the funeral of his brother, who had died unexpectedly. That was the reason for the bowed head. The frequent chest-patting was to reassure himself that he had his boarding pass. The micro-expression was an attempt to conceal his grief.

The man was not a terrorist, nor a malefactor of any kind, but just an innocent traveler carrying some extra emotional baggage that day. So why single him out for questioning because of a fleeting expression and a sad-sack posture?

Paul Ekman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at San Francisco, is a pro bono adviser to the Transportation Security Adminstration's SPOT program.

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Turbineguy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 05:50 PM
Response to Original message
1. " would violate flyer's civil rights..."
I thought that was the whole idea.

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glitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 06:11 PM
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2. That poor man. Insult to injury, a Bush specialty. nt
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Crunchy Frog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 06:14 PM
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3. I hope they gave him a full body cavity search.
Nothing is too much when it comes to keeping our people safe.
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Tangerine LaBamba Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 06:19 PM
Response to Original message
4. It's good this "adviser"
is working pro bono.

I'd hate like hell for his "advice" to be costing taxpayes one red cent.

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ogneopasno Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 06:24 PM
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5. "just 1/15th of a second or so"
"Or so." What are you, an atomic clock?
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-07-08 06:51 PM
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6. We have to make American's lives incresingly miserable or the terrorists win...
These guys have been practicing for their big debut for a while now.

Here's an excerpt from a piece on SPOT in a security industry trade rag from a couple years ago. Notice how happy everybody is that this great and vital program is finally moving ahead -- except for the passengers, of course. It also seems Mr. Ekman is a bit of a gadfly and self-promoter:

At one airport, passengers singled out solely because of their behavior have at times been threatened with detention if they did not cooperate, raising constitutional issues that are already being argued in court. Some civil liberties experts say the program, if not run properly, could turn into another version of racial profiling, the newspaper reports.

"It may be the best that can be done now, but it is not nearly good enough," said Paul Ekman, a retired psychology professor from the University of California, San Francisco, who specializes in detecting lies and deceit, and has helped the TSA set up its program. "We could do much better, and we should because it could save lives."

The TSA program, called "Screening Passengers by Observation Technique," or SPOT, may not yet be perfect. But they added that they are constantly making adjustments and they are convinced that it was a valuable addition to airport security.

"There are infinite ways to find things to use as a weapon and infinite ways to hide them," TSA Director Kip Hawley says. "But if you can identify the individual, it is by far the better way to find the threat."

A little over a year ago, SPOT was called VIPR and they were perfecting their technique by fucking with Indianapolis city bus passengers:


INDIANAPOLIS STAR - Screeners from the Transportation Security Administration checked passengers at two downtown city bus stops this morning, looking for weapons and suspicious behavior. David Kane, federal security director for TSA in Indianapolis, called it a "VIPR" operation.

"It's called Visual Intermodal Prevention Response. We have plainclothes inspectors, blue-gloved uniformed security officers who are checking baggage, the behavior detection officers, and federal air marshals, which are the law enforcement arm of TSA."

Security stations were set up at bus stops at Capitol Avenue and Market Street, and Ohio and Meridian streets. Some passengers were patted down or submitted to having bags checked. TSA said the searches were "by-permission," meaning patrons could decline to be checked. Those who did would not be turned away, an official said, unless they otherwise appeared to be a security threat.

I'd like to provide a link, but amazingly the story's been scrubbed. Just another of those weird coincidences, I guess. But don't forget the big picture:

The important thing is to take your happy drugs and never show signs of anything but radiant joy and deep satisfaction. Always remain perky and upbeat even when waiting an hour for a bus that's supposed to show up at 10 minute intervals.

Be careful not to express impatience about the tardiness of the bus; that could be construed as a negative comment on our nation's infrastructure, which is a particularly sore subject these days. So no toe-tapping or finger-drumming.

Maybe engage a stranger in conversation about something innocuous, like the weather or sports. Since there's a good chance the stranger will be a snitch, you want to leave the best possible, non-threatening impression. Try to maintain a neutral expression, and smile when it's appropriate.

When those blue-gloved strangers stick their fingers into your purse or pockets, don't become annoyed because that's exactly the kind of reaction the behavior detection officers are trained to spot. Again, remain perky and upbeat and, above all, cooperative. The authorities don't like it when you become assertive; best to remain meek and compliant, even when they feel you up in the name of defending the homeland.

Smile a lot.

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HillbillyBob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-08-08 06:57 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Just what we need, antisocial psychopaths
making judgments on ordinary travelers,
and folks wonder why I won't even attempt to travel by
any air line.
The last time I flew was in 97 i think it was and I got the
third degree at every lay over domestic not overseas.

Welcome to the fasicst amurikkka.
It seems to be all of a pattern of total control of subjects, we are not citizens
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warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-08-08 09:09 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. Until a critical mass of Americans admit that the real terrorists live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave...
...and that their phony "war on terror" is just another of their get rich quick schemes, this shit will continue and get incrementally worse and more abusive.

Their fight isn't against some raggedy assed group of "Islamofascists" called Al CIA-duh -- a wholly owned subsidiary of US intelligence (if that's not too much of an oxymoron) created, funded, armed, trained and deployed to the USSR/Afghanistan border to fight another of the dozens of US-sponsored proxy wars against the USSR.

They're just the designated patsies who must shoulder the blame for "the events of 9/11"(tm) so the Bushies and their cronies can have an excuse for their orgy of patriotic war profiteering.

As with all governments, totalitarian or relatively benign, the people are the real enemy. The Bushies' real war on terror is fought against American citizens on multiple fronts: disinformation, propaganda, demonstrations of police and military power, corporate boosterism, wage and debt slavery, induced alienation and an entire fascist security state awaiting the flick of a switch to go live.

The whole idea is keeping the peasants docile, scared and powerless so they won't bitch as their pockets are picked yet again and whatever's still in them is transferred upward and into the insatiably greedy palms of the top 2 percent.

Pretty soon, only a couple of pennies and some lint will remain. At that point, the peasants will lose their value to the predatory thieves who have used them for decades as their own private cash cows and financial reserves. What happens then is anybody's guess, but it's unlikely to be very pleasant.

Welcome to the new world order, a remarkable recreation of the Third Reich, with updated technology and great advances in PR and advertising. All that's missing is some really cool black uniforms with lightning bolts and deaths heads, and that signature thud of a jackboot breaking down your door.

But have patience; that's probably not too far off. In Minnesota, it already arrived last week.

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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-08-08 07:07 AM
Response to Original message
8. Thought police. Soon this will all be done by computer
Facial recognition software should soon be able to handle all of this. Make sure that you take your prozac every morning folks. They'll be watching.
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paparush Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-08-08 09:17 PM
Response to Original message
10. We used to be citizens. Now, we're suspects.
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