Program would cut out private-run companies
With security lines at airports yet again growing and concerns about full body scanners rampant, traveler frustration is again reaching a tipping point. The Transportation Security Administration recognizes this and is … once again … dusting off the idea of a trusted traveler program.
TSA Administrator John S. Pistole wants to change the airport security checkpoint experience to enable “known travelers” to have expedited screening.
“Recognize that TSA screens more than 628 million airline passengers each year at U.S. airports,” Pistole said in a speech before the American Bar Association’s 6th Annual Homeland Security Law Institute in March. “The vast majority of the 628 million present little-to-no risk of committing an act of terrorism.”
Pistole wants to use risk-based, intelligence driven programs to enable easier travel. “Everyone is familiar with the current system that screens nearly everyone the same way,” he said. “If we want to continue to ensure the secure freedom of movement for people and commerce across this great nation and around the world, there are solutions that go beyond the one-size-fits-all system.”
Details of the new known or trusted traveler program is still being worked out, but it will be different from the registered traveler programs that have been in place up to now, a TSA spokesperson says adding, “those programs have essentially been front of the line programs.”
The trusted traveler programs were first thought of after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a way to alleviate security checkpoints at airports. Private company’s sprung up to fill the need but ran into financial issues and ceased operation. In the last year a couple of new players have emerged, but they are only operating at a handful of airports.
Any new program will most likely dovetail with pilots for crewmember screening. That system will tie airline employee databases together in a seamless way and enable TSA security officers to positively verify identity and employment status of crewmembers.
CrewPass, a pilot of a crewmember system, has been running since May 2009 at Baltimore/Washington International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport and Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina. Crewmembers enroll in the system by showing a government-issued ID, an airline ID, answering some questions and registering fingerprint biometrics.
Pistole wants to expand this program to other airports and enable travelers to enroll, the spokesperson says. Benefits of the program may include enabling travelers to keep their shoes on, leave laptops in bags and perhaps skip the full body scanners, the spokesperson says.
The TSA may tap into airlines frequent flyer systems to get information on travelers so the agency has additional data, the spokesperson says.
The program will be different from previous ones because it also won’t guarantee expedited processing. Participants could be pulled aside at any point. “We won’t guarantee expedited screening,” the spokesperson explains. “There will always be a random element to this.”
The TSA is expected to release more details with information about pilot program later in 2011. Expect to see it tested at one or two airports with additional rollouts if successful.