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Government Behavior Detection Officers

It used to be that probable cause required for a search by government agents meant evidence linking someone to a crime or to a conspiracy to commit a crime. Not any more. Now, in the era of Homeland Insecurity, the threshold of probable cause has been lowered to the guess by a government agent that someone they see has an emotion that they are trying to hide.

The Transportation Security Administration is hiring people to serve as what it calls “Behavior Detection Officers”. These officers wander around airports, and possibly other places as well, just looking at people, or setting people up to be examined under false pretenses. If these Behavior Detection Officers see someone showing a facial expression that they believe indicates the attempt to suppress a demonstration of emotion, the observed person is then submitted to a new set of security measures that can include being followed, interrogation, and personal search.

The Bill of Rights’ protection against unreasonable search and seizure used to mean something, but now, the government seems to interpret any search that it wants to do as inherently reasonable.

In the American tradition of liberty, a troubled facial expression was not regarded as a reasonable grounds for interrogation and search by government agents. Now, under Homeland Insecurity, it’s regarded as quite reasonable. In the Homeland States of America, even sending out special government agents to search for people who look like they are feeling emotionally vulnerable is categorized as a reasonable thing to do.

As a progressive, I’m still holding on to that tradition of liberty in America, which holds that the Bill of Rights counts for something, and that it is not the business of the government to send agents out to study my face for signs that I might be feeling upset.

(Source: McClatchy Newspapers, August 14, 2007)

6 comments to Government Behavior Detection Officers

  • Abby

    Living in metro DC, I have a troubled facial expression for nearly all of my waking hours. I suppose I should just buy myself a cage and lock myself inside. It isn’t unusual to see large, illuminated signs on the beltway stating something along the line of “REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY” followed by a telephone number for reporting such things. In an age where every neocon is a cop on the beat, I find it terribly troubling that now my nerves and animated expressions can be grounds for interrogation.

  • Jim

    If they want to find people at the airport who are demonstrating suppression of emotion, they only need to go to the food court and look for parents with young children holding ketchup packets.

  • Tom

    Welcome to prison life.

  • Ralph

    I’d like to read a court transcript of someone appealing this new justification for search and seizure:

    “No, your honor, I did not have an odd look on my face.”

    Americans, your constitutional rights are null and void if someone in a position of power says they think you look funny.

  • Patricia

    Ok? You cant wear that? I am an officer looking at you and you can’t wear that! and I am looking across the street and no, you can’t wear that, and I am looking at that sweatsuit and no, you can’t wear that and I just looked at a jacket and no you can wear that….THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT

    And that’s what they do and they look at underwear too and be good and be good and be good and be good and go home

  • Ok? You cant wear that? I am an officer looking at you and you can’t wear that! and I am looking across the street and no, you can’t wear that, and I am looking at that sweatsuit and no, you can’t wear that and I just looked at a jacket and no you can wear that….THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT

    And that’s what they do and they look at underwear too and be good and be good and be good and be good and go home

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