Thursday, November 10, 2011

TSA to Expand Pre-Check Flyer Program

USA Today: The Transportation Security Administration plans to expand its pre-check program for airline passengers, who provide information about themselves in exchange for a faster trip through security lines, the agency chief announced Wednesday.

The experimental program began in October at airports in Miami, Dallas, Detroit and Atlanta.

John Pistole, the TSA administrator, told the Senate transportation committee Wednesday that the program will expand to Las Vegas in December, and to Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul in early 2012.

"This is an ongoing process," Pistole said, with expansions possible to other airlines and other locations. "The goal is to expand it as broadly as possible while maintaining the highest level of security, all on a voluntary basis."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., welcomed the announcement.

"I've been calling for this for a long time," Boxer said. "No one who supports this ever wants to compromise security."

The pre-check program is part of Pistole's effort toward risk-based screening, to focus searches on passengers considered the largest potential threats. Other parts of this strategy include:

--An experimental program at Boston and Detroit airports, where TSA officers try to find wrongdoers through their behavior, by chatting with passengers while checking their identification and boarding passes.

--An experimental program for pilots to avoid screening lines at select airports.

--A move to significantly reduce the pat-downs conducted on children 12 years old or younger.

Eligible travelers for the pre-check program include frequent fliers with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, as well as the U.S. Customers and Border Protection's trusted-traveler program.

Participants are able to use a different security line and take off fewer items, like keeping on their shoes and light jackets.

But TSA warns there could still be random security measures, and that nobody is guaranteed expedited screening.

About 45,000 passengers have gone through the program so far at the four existing airports, Pistole said.

The program applies only to domestic flights.

"We want to make sure we get it right domestically first," Pistole said.

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