Rogers Opening Statement at Hearing to Prevent Unlawful TSA Profiling

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, today delivered an opening statement at a hearing entitled, “Perspectives on TSA’s Policies to Prevent Unlawful Profiling.”

Unfortunately, allegations of unlawful profiling are nothing new for the TSA.  Since the agency was created after September 11th, it has faced allegations that its screening practices unfairly target certain populations of travelers. 

Some of these allegations have stemmed from TSA’s behavior detection program.  Throughout the program’s several iterations, the TSA has faced bipartisan criticism from this Committee for its lack of scientific validation in evaluating passengers’ risk to aviation security. 

That is why I am pleased that last Congress, the Republican majority enacted legislation Representative Katko authored to end stand-alone behavior detection officer positions and require them to be integrated into the primary screening functions at checkpoints.  This important step has helped alleviate passenger wait times while sending a strong message to TSA about Congress’s dissatisfaction with the behavior detection program. 

In its most recent review, GAO issued a single recommendation for TSA to establish an oversight mechanism to better monitor behavior detection activities.  TSA should implement this recommendation immediately.   

I would note that during the four-year period GAO considered as part of its report, TSA conducted nearly 3 billion passenger screenings.  Of that 3 billion, only 1,066 passengers had allegations of unlawful profiling that were substantiated and resulted in employee retraining.  That’s an average of 1 substantiated allegation for every 2.8 million passengers screened.

In no way does this minimize the very real experiences of those who have faced discrimination.  Even one such incident is too many.  However, this context is important. 

The vast majority of TSA officers conduct themselves professionally.  It would be unfortunate for this Committee to send a message to them and the traveling public that unlawful profiling is rampant within their ranks, when, according to the data, it is not. 

In contrast to the low rates of unlawful profiling, previous media reports have highlighted very high rates of TSA screeners failing to detect threat items at checkpoints.  I hope that at some point in the near future, the majority will focus its oversight efforts on finding a solution to this tremendous risk to aviation security. 

Finally, this is the second hearing concerning the TSA in as many weeks where the majority chose not to invite the agency to testify.  I think all Members would agree that it would have been beneficial for TSA to appear today to respond to the GAO report and the perspectives of our other witnesses.  At some point, I hope the majority will seek input from the TSA on these important issues.  In the interim, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today. 

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