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Report finds no racial profiling at Logan

Watchdog says TSA officers didn’t target minority passengers

A year after allegations of widespread racial profiling at Logan International Airport sparked a federal investigation, the Department of Homeland Security says there is no indication that Transportation Security Administration officers in Boston targeted minorities for additional screening to meet quotas.

The investigation focused on the behavior detection program, which refers suspicious passengers for additional screening based on body language, responses to questions, and unusual actions like wearing a heavy coat in the summer.

Of 84 behavior detection officers and managers at Logan interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, only one recounted a specific instance of racial profiling, according to a synopsis of a report obtained by the Globe.


Investigators also talked to passengers of color at Logan who had been selected for additional inspections, none of whom alleged that they were targeted because of their race. In addition, investigators reviewed hundreds of documents related to Logan’s behavior detection program, including complaints, statistics, and records of referrals for secondary screenings.

“Profiling is not tolerated within the ranks of TSA, and the investigation found no evidence of profiling by behavior detection officers at Boston Logan International Airport,” said TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis. “TSA has long made clear that profiling is not only discriminatory, but it is also an ineffective way to identify someone intent on doing harm. Officers are trained and audited to look for observable behaviors and behaviors alone.”

The allegations of racial profiling surfaced last summer after eight TSA officers went to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts to express concerns about colleagues seeking out minorities during security checks. Previously, more than 30 officers had filed internal complaints about the practice, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Managers demanded that a high number of passengers be stopped for additional screening including referrals to State Police, in order to show that the behavior detection program produced results, the officers said. That led some of their colleagues to focus on minorities in the belief they may be more likely to have immigration issues or arrest warrants, they said.


Logan was the first airport in the nation to institute a behavior detection program, in 2003. It is now used at 176 airports nationwide.

The ACLU criticized the Department of Homeland Security findings, pointing out that the TSA does not collect data on the race or ethnic origin of travelers, which makes it difficult to put together an accurate picture of those pulled aside for extra questioning.

A May report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General office found that TSA does not adequately assess the effectiveness of behavior detection, and therefore the agency “cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively.”

In addition, one of the investigators originally assigned to the case — and then removed — was a former TSA supervisor at Logan who had hired some of the managers who were subjects of the internal complaints, said Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU staff lawyer in Boston.

“This result is absurd,” Wunsch said. “From the start of this investigation there was every indication that they were not going to do an adequate job.”

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, said it was gratified that the inspector general found no indication of racial profiling at the airport.

“The authority has said consistently that racial profiling is illegal, ineffective, and there is no place for it in any security program,” said spokesman Matthew Brelis. “We will continue to work with our partners to promote effective, legal security programs that protect the millions of passengers who use Boston Logan and the thousands of people who work at the airport.”


The inspector general’s office did not respond to requests to release the report.

Katie Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.