TSA Behavior Detection Officers Accused of Racial Profiling Called Themselves 'Mexican Hunters'

A 2010 TSA report obtained by the Newark Star Ledger is offering an inside look into the work of Liberty International Airport's behavior detection officers, who apparently spent so much of their time stopping travelers of Latin American descent that they dubbed themselves the "Mexican Hunters."

The so-called "Boston Report" on the Newark screeners, compiled from early 2008 to late 2009 by inquiry officers based out of Logan International Airport, contains descriptions of manager-supported racial profiling, policies of ignoring actual behavioral stress indicators, and officers' cavalier attitude towards public safety.

According to the report, the BDO officers were focussing on Mexican and Dominican passengers in order to find improper visas and passport stamps that would allow the unit to refer cases to immigration and create a paper record of apparent productivity. The report was written during a time of turmoil at Newark Liberty, as stories surfaced about screeners' incompetence.

Blame for the racial profiling landed at the feet of Behavior Detection Manager Luis Chevere, who was disciplined in September, 2010 for urging his officers to single out Latin people. Mr. Chevere denied the accusations against him to the Star Ledger's Steve Strunsky and claimed his boss had simply passed the buck to avoid blame.

Barbara Powell, the airport's federal security director while the Boston Report was being written, was replaced in April by a former JFK International Airport staffer. She has landed on her feet as a senior advisor in the TSA's Office of Human Capital in Virginia.

The TSA claims to maintain a strict no-profiling policy.
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