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U.S. Customs Service: Better Targeting of Airline Passengers for Personal Searches Could Produce Better Results

GGD-00-38 Published: Mar 17, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2000.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed policies and procedures for conducting personal searches to determine the controls Customs Service has in place to ensure that airline passengers are not inappropriately selected or subjected to personal searches, focusing on how the Customs' personal search data: (1) identifies the characteristics--race and gender--of passengers who were more or less likely to be subjected to more intrusive searches; and (2) the results of searching those passengers.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Directorate of Border and Transportation Security The Customs Service should analyze the characteristics of passengers selected for intrusive searches and the results of those searches as part of the periodic evaluation it has agreed to do on the basis of the Office of Professional Responsibility's recommendation. It should use these data to help to develop criteria for determining which passengers to search.
Closed – Not Implemented
While Customs agreed with our recommendation, it chose to address the passenger selection process differently. It increased supervisory review of passengers target for personal search. This resulted in fewer searches but does help to refine its search criteria.

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ContrabandPassengersCustoms administrationDrug traffickingInternal controlsInternational travelRacial discriminationSearch and seizureSex discriminationSmuggling