Going to the airport? Get ready to be psycho-profiled. Wary of increasing terror attacks, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), in-charge of security at the Mumbai airport and 53 other airports in the country, has begun psycho-profiling all passengers to be able to correctly pin down potential hijackers, terrorists, gangsters, smugglers and drug-peddlers.
Lessons in psycho-profiling, a method of examining psychological behaviour patterns by way of observation and questioning, were imparted to the CISF early this year by officials of the Israel national airline El Al, one of the most security-conscious airlines in the world which has had this system for years and by officials of Indian intelligence agencies.
The profiling exercise, implemented recently at the Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore airports apart from those in the North-East, involves five steps, according to CISF officials. First is to look for three signs common to terrorists and other trouble-makers:
1) the passenger looks very focussed as he waits at the airport terminal or in the queue
2) he sits in a corner at the terminal and appears keen to minimise visibility
3) he does not talk to other passengers but maintains a safe distance always
Anyone — and it could be an innocent passenger — showing these signs will now be asked to step aside and be subjected to rigorous frisking. If this does not satisfy the security personnel, they will take the third step: they will pose a series of questions to the passenger. A list of these questions has been given to them by El Al and the intelligence agencies (see ‘Five Basic Questions’). If satisfactory answers to these are not found, the passenger will be strip-searched the way George Fernandes was in the US after 9/11. And if even that’s not convincing, the CISF will call in other agencies for co-ordinated and sustained search and interrogation. Images of the passenger captured by CCTVs too will be then observed to get an accurate picture.
Fifty per cent of the surveillance staff have already been trained in this method and the rest will be trained soon as the experience of the IC-814 hijack and recent terror attacks have forced CISF officials to be extra-alert, officials said."We’re profiling all people who use air travel facilities. This will make things easier for travellers who are well-behaved and make frisking rigorous for others," Director General of CISF SIS Ahmed told Mumbai Mirror.
But people with Kashmiri features could well be frisked more than others. "We’re also maintaining profiles of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen men because suicide bombers and hijackers definitely look different from normal passengers, and terrorists hailing from Pakistan and J&K have distinctive features," another CISF official said.
CISF officials claimed the exercise has already produced results, with a marked reduction in cases of bag-lifting and laptop theft. In February, CISF arrested a group of Nigerians who would board a flight either to Mumbai or Bangalore every morning and return the same night. Though their frisking did not reveal anything, tough interrogation revealed that the Nigerians had booked tickets online by using someone else’s credit card.
Similarly, medical examination of a suspicious-looking Nigerian revealed he had hidden 170 gms of morphine in his abdomen. The morphine was worth Rs 17 lakh.
FIVE BASIC QUESTIONS THE CISF WILL ASK A SUSPICIOUS – LOOKING PASSENGER
• Is this your baggage?
• Have your packed baggage yourself?
• If you’re carrying any gift/parcel/item given to you by your friends/relatives/others, have you checked the contents?
• Has that item been in your custody since it was packed?
• Hope you’re not carrying any arms, explosives or other dangerous goods, because concealing that is an offence
THE US SYSTEM
The US has an automated profiling system called the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (CAPPS). US surveillance officials also do strip-searches of suspicious-looking passengers.