Congressman Paul Broun is chairman of the subcommittee on investigations and oversight.
"TSA's spending $1.2 billion on this program and we're just going to look at the science of it, to see if in fact this is a useful expenditure of the taxpayers' dollars. In fact, I'm not sure that it is," Broun says.
At 161 airports, thousands of specially trained officers study body language and even facial expressions.
"They're looking for anxiety. They're looking for intent," Broun says.
And yes, there apparently is a difference between the kind of anxiety they're looking for and the kind that goes with, say, being late for a flight. The government contends that behavioral surveillance and physiological monitoring are based on solid science, if not "rigorously scientifically validated." According to Broun, a Georgia Republican who's made this the focus of his first oversight hearing, Congress is overdue to take a closer look.
"We can't be 100 percent safe -- there's no way. We have limited resources...We've got to expend taxpayer dollars in a very cost effective way to do what we need to do," he says.
In other words, this fits right in with the GOP-led House's overarching goals of aggressive oversight and spending reduction.
For its part, TSA isn't exactly on board. The agency has declined to participate in today's hearing.
"They've been invited," Broun says. "Why they're refusing to come, I don't know. Do they have something to hide? I don't know..."
By the way, if the analysis of micro-facial ticks and self-incriminating expressions sounds like the makings of a Hollywood story, it is. One of today's star witnesses is psychologist Paul Ekman, who pioneered the field and inspired a network television show.