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August 03, 2015

Are you a 'flying' terrorist?

None of us could dream or imagine oneself being into a situation in which a small group of lunatics or extremists has took control of airplane and threatened to blow it in sky or crash it into an important installation. Terrorists and hijackers (skyjackers) have found their way into highflying and costly commuter planes only to make whole world pay serious and immediate attention at their outrageous demands.

They have done serious damage to global peace and mostly the innocent passengers have been put to death indiscriminately by them. After 9/11 attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon with the help of commercial airplanes by a group of religious extremists, airlines are under serious pressure. As passengers, we all need to remain alert, cautious and vigilant.

World Trade Center hit by two passenger airplanes

After recent major incidents, both airport security and passenger screening have been made stringent and strict throughout the world. There is no surprise to see a large and penetrating network of cameras, metal detectors and X-Ray scanner and body scanners setup along with vigilant and armed security personals and sniffer dogs on international airports which comb through passengers.

Developed countries in west like America or England takes or handles potential threats to civil aviation more seriously because considerable portion of population travels by air regularly in the both countries. However, to err is human so it’s no surprise that mistakes happen while scrutinizing passengers too.

We must know that our body unconsciously, involuntarily and continuously gives away clues beyond and without words to the outer world i. e. different kind of signals and clues originated from, caused by or related to different emotional, cognitive and physical states and conditions.

As most of us traditionally assume or are regularly told about, there are certain body language clues or hot-spots that can help us in spotting and catching (potential) liars, perpetrators, offenders and conspirators. Some experts who are or have became more confident over time came forward to catch terrorists with their ‘established’ techniques.

Airport security in America has come up with an integrated framework that helps in short listing potential terrorists moving along with other innocent and naïve passengers. However, there are major flaws in the same because the system hardly considers contexts behind the clues and cluster of signals being given away by passengers under scrutiny.

What if an innocent airliner passenger is arrested by security personals or officers based upon the check list they fill in while observing its so-called ‘suspicious body language’? Exactly this is what happens by most. Moreover, a few terrorists have successfully. Just don't forget to watch the below video.

The heavily funded Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program has been facing criticism and allegations from both passengers and experts alike since its inception back in year 2007. The list of body language signs or signals against which a trained Behavior Detection Officer (BDO) needs to look for matching inputs given away by passengers is immature or flawed.

Most of ‘suspicious’ signals selected by SPOT implementers are what an ordinary and innocent person would give away unconsciously in front of officers. What officers need to thoroughly observe and quickly understand is the context in which a particular expression is given away by a person under observation. Considering the amount of passengers, it's really touch to achieve.

Even if we assume that these signals are the true indicators of person having anti-social or harmful intentions towards others, the situation in which the person is giving them away is critically important. The passengers who are traveling at very first time to any international destination might give them away due to nervousness, anxiety and fear about flying in the first place.

In addition to the same, sniffer dogs, metal detectors, X-Ray scanners, presence of modern firing weapons, body touching by security personals, their serious faces and their suspicious stare could easily and surely add to existing nervousness, stress, irritation, frustration or anger of the passengers. These obvious clues could easily get misinterpreted by officers.

On the other hand, the sequences in which different suspicious clues, gestures and expressions are given away also need to be analyzed thoroughly. One passenger’s nonverbal interaction with other passenger in different contexts needs to pay a very close attention at. Also, there could be a huge cultural differences in expressions emotions on faces.

Few of the signals listed under SPOT

Signals like exaggerated yawning, rubbing or wringing of hands, gazing down, excessive throat clearing, widely open staring eyes, exaggerated or repetitive grooming gestures or whistling might definitely catch attention of anybody. So how much observing officers are interested in checking the reason behind these body language clues is pivotal.

Other experts have given a very valuable and critical suggestion against existing and not-so-successful SPOT program. They say that suspects should be thoroughly questioned and their nonverbal clues should be observed inside a closed room than just catching them based on the score in SPOT Referral Report hand filled by behavioral observer.

Above all, normal, empathetic and pro-social individuals wouldn't take guns and grenades in their hands to terrorize and harm others. Terrorists are deeply troubled individuals who are systematically brainwashed for extending certain political goals and ambitions through terrorizing people, authorities and governments.

Their body language clues and their intensity might be different than that of the normal, empathetic and pro-social individuals. Hence, scanning or screening people belonging to two drastically different personalities using the same checklist is an immature or irresponsible act by itself.

Failure of this ambitious program or system should be enough eye-opening for creators, designers, developers or implementers of similar programs which revolve around screening the potential criminals or offenders based upon their body language.

Related Articles:
1) Micro-expressions 2) Body Language Brain 3) Emotional expressions are manipulated 4) Observation is the key 5) Job Interview Tips 6) Analytical Interview: Are HR Professionals ready for it? 7) Inside Interrogation Room 8) Recognizing emotional expressions: Scientific viewpoints 9) Face of a liar(?) 10) It’s Written All Over You... 11) Entire body can’t lie 12) Body Language of Extreme Psychopath