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'You Be A Terrorist If...': Leaked TSA Documents Reveals Secret Check List


'You Be A Terrorist If...': Leaked TSA Documents Reveals Secret Check List

Jon Queally, staff writer

Obtained exclusively by The Intercept and described in a news story on Friday, a leaked Transportation Safety Administration document reveals the "suspicious signs"—including excessive yawning, a cold hard stare, or a rigid posture—that TSA agents have been trained to look for as airline passengers make their way through U.S. airports in the post-9/11 era.


This article seems humorous until one considers how many travelers may have been detained and harassed for any of the reasons on the list.



I don’t see anything wrong with trying to identify terrorists using behavioral markers. I remember a few years back people were complaining about airport body scans that showed what was beneath clothing - bodies & anything else. At the time there was talk about using behavior and interviews to do screening, as Israel had done successfully for years.

Still, it would be good to do an independent analysis to see if it really works.


Israeli screening is really not comparable. All they’re concerned about is harassing Palestinians and other Muslims and Arabs.



ctrl_z wrote:

‘I don’t see anything wrong with trying to identify terrorists using behavioral markers…’

Except that it can’t be done.

‘…Still, it would be good to do an independent analysis to see if it really works.’

And how would that work? Suppose that excellent correlation were shown between those who committed acts of terror and thse who frequently picked their noses. Quite possibly, chemicals used in explosives could have caused such a syndrome.

And further suppose that chemicals used by farmers produced the same syndrome. Without postulating a mechanism of action, showing a correlation is meaningless.


I am sure there are enough smugglers that a statistical analysis of how many were pre-identified, vs. how many false hits there were, would be possible. If they’re able to determine how effective the screening via behavior is, the issue then becomes a cost/benefit analysis.


A cold hard stare? That could apply to McCain, the insane, Graham, Cruz, Boner, and most of the people in Congress!


The article left out; if you look middle eastern or have a middle eastern sounding name, and if you are wearing a turban, and if you look Mexican or black, and if you are an intellectual, or a progressive activist.


The TSA list of behaviors to watch for is comical at best. I have seen all these behaviors among passengers at one time or another (I was a flight crew member for a major US airlines for several years) and never encountered a problem in that time. Annual recurrent training for airline employees included specific behaviors for potential hijackers based on information gathered from any number of actual aircraft hijackings. That list was substantive. As for the TSA personnel themselves, the passengers need to be aware of their behaviors and I know this from personal experience. During a personal airline travel trip from London to Spokane, WA (customs in Seattle), my luggage containing close to $6,000 of clothing and athletic equipment (tennis racquets, shoes) made it intact from London to Seattle on the BA flight where I saw it go through customs but I was detained by Customs for a manufactured (by them) reason that there was a question about my passport and the luggage was left in the hands of two TSA agents while I was held in a room waiting for questioning for almost an hour…missing my connection). After leaving the “interrogation,” I went to the TSA agents to retrieve my luggage and they assured me that they would direct it to the new backup flight. When I arrived in Spokane, my bag was not there. Filed a claim with Alaska Airlines who eventually and begrudgingly reimbursed only $1,300 even with receipts I provided for all contents INCLUDING PICTURES OF THOSE ITEMS WITHIN THE LUGGAGE. The bag ended up being found in a lost baggage warehouse belonging to American Airlines in Dallas with only underwear and socks contained therein. American sent the bag back to me damaged beyond further use (it was only used once before the London to Spokane flights). American Airlines pointed the finger at Alaska Airlines thus absolving themselves of any culpability. I contacted TSA and they supposedly conducted their own investigation and found no wrongdoing on the part of the two agents in Seattle (yeah, right). Also contacted the US Dept of Commerce and they said I had a case but they never went further with their investigation. IMO the two TSA agents (one minority man and one minority woman) in Seattle stole all the valuable contents in my luggage and misrouted the virtually empty bag to Dallas on American Airlines. I am sure they enjoyed either wearing what they could and/or selling what they could not use. TSA behavior for passengers to look for: being over solicitous in helping you with your luggage; commenting on the contents of your luggage; tag teaming with your luggage; putting on smiley faces to mask their larcenous behavior, etc. I caution everyone to do all they possibly can to never let their luggage out of their sight while on the ground before leaving and after arrival.


Your experience is not unique. One slip of the tongue or formal complaint about the asinine performance of this obnoxious agency and you will be detained for days in some cases. There used to be a website called Homeland Stupidity that documented the “We can do anything since we are Feds” attitude prevalent since 911, and they put the creater on the no-fly list and all hell broke loose in other matters for him.

These agencies practice revenge, and sometimes they steal, since they know you will get nowhere in their Kangaroo Investigations. You should forward your complaint to the GAO (government accounting office) and if they get enough of them, they may produce a sting operation like they have in the past. In response to complaints of screeners not looking at the luggage x-ray monitors, the GAO found in dozens of security check-point “audits” (stings) that most weapons they hid in luggage were not found by airport security for years. I’m not sure about after this latest agency was created.

TSA, despite being a government agency, has done a fairly good job at preventing hi-jackings (with the exception of the full-body x-ray scanner scam, which couldn’t see inserted weapons and caused cancer in the past.) The problem is that they have made life a living hell for the paying passenger, running the airport like a prison, and killing off tourism to the USA. No one treated like you were will ever come back if they don’t have to. We need to send them all to charm school, or just start over with private security owned by the airlines again.


That sounds like voodoo psychology to me, gives some otherwise unskilled workers a way to make a buck and can be wrong 99% of the time


The problem with a known database, is that smugglers are smart, and they hire couriers (dumb chits) to haul their crap for them. So it’s a brand new guy every time. In the 80’s we had a big problem with these “drug couriers” hauling bleach bottles full of noxious foul-smelling drug lab liquids in both checked and carry-on baggage. Occasionally, the bottle would break or leak, getting hard-core narcotics on the bags or hands of innocent passengers. The FBI told us it resulted in unconsciousness and serious medical problems for several passengers.

This is why I object to drug testing and drug sniffing dogs. Having this residue on you is not proof you are doing drugs or smuggling them. Of course the best solution is full legalization of drugs and stop bombing the hell out of everyone with drones… Then we can go back to the 1970’s with no check-Point-Charlies at all

But I’m an optimistic idealist who rejects the war economy model…


What? Stop bombing the hell out of everyone?

What are you, a Quaker or sumptin?

I meant an after the fact database. How many were flagged by behavioral screening, how many hits did it actually get?
Is the number of hits statistically greater than random chance would produce? And from information post-screening, can a reasoned guess be made as to how many actually got through the screening?

That would give us a basis to assess if the system is beneficial.


It’s a good point you make John. But the argument is that if you want to prevent another 911 or a Fukushima, you have to eliminate all possible causes of the disaster, even if you can’t pin down exactly where the causative agent came from…

Now I think this TSA checklist is silly, since many people are nervous about flying. But it’s harmless compared to the “Rape-a-Scan” x-ray full-body scanners that we pilots refused to go through any more. We proved that with poor maintenance, they get stuck sometimes and zap a small spot on the skin causing cancer.

Of course, being pro-nuke, I’m sure you don’t mind getting hit by excessive amounts of the electromagnetic spectrum, but the rest of us who live in concrete houses don’t need any more of it!


Hi Tom,

  • Yeah, that reminds me of something I read years ago, that you may well test positive because you handle the money you put in your wallet as most bills, especially the larger denominations, have often been rolled up to snort cocaine. The residue remains and God help you if you happen to pass a narc dog!
  • The main thing to remember is that the “war on drugs,” and the “war on terror” have produced virtually no hits except for setups by the Brownshirts dressed in Blue. However, quite a few billion$ per year are put into these programs and they’ll fight like hell to keep them in place.
  • Just like the endless wars, it is very profitable to the 0.001% and so it is sacrosanct.


You might be an idiot if you believe 19 arabs undermined the entire U.S. security apparatus FOUR TIMES in one morning.

9/11 was orchestrated by VP Dick Cheney and his neocon cabal. Wake up folks.


No, I never said that. “All” is a word you invented for me. I did not use the word “All” nor did I imply anything about Cocaine or Heroin/Opium. Nor did I say anything about how things are done today. I was merely relaying a problem airlines had in the 80’s. If you think drug smuggling only happened on the ground then you are certainly crazy.


Have you ever made a “large” cash deposit in a bank?


Scuzemoi, but Fukushima was not an act of terrorism.
Carry on.


Fukushima was indeed Corporate Terrorism. The three primary engineers who designed it (the “GE Three”) quit in protest since none of the backup systems were reliable. GE had sunk so much money into it they built it anyway and caused the triple meltdown before it had ever been built.