TSA unveils plans for tiered screening process

By Bill Poling
The Transportation Security Administration is planning to adopt a three-tiered system for passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports.

The TSA intends to pre-select passengers for “expedited, standard or enhanced” screening at the time of booking. The information will be embedded in the barcode of the boarding pass.

Continuing to move away from what TSA Administrator John Pistole has called a “one-size-fits-all” approach, the new system is “designed to increase the number of airline passengers who may be eligible for expedited screening,” according to a Federal Register notice.

According to the notice, the new procedure will rely on existing data in the Secure Flight system that is used to match passenger reservations records with the FBI’s watch list.

Secure Flight is the TSA program that requires booking systems to include the passenger’s full name, gender, date of birth, redress or Known Traveler Number if applicable, and other data.

The new system will use Secure Flight data for the additional purpose of performing a risk assessment “before the passenger receives a boarding pass, to determine what level of physical screening the passenger will receive” at the airport.

The TSA said the risk-based analysis will take into account other information about the flight or other current intelligence, and will also incorporate “a level of randomness.”

Low-risk passengers selected for expedited screening would be assigned at the airport to the lanes now used for TSA’s Pre-Check program, where pre-approved frequent flyers are permitted to keep their shoes and belts on, and to keep laptops in their cases.

Pre-Check, as reported, is being expanded this year from 40 to 100 U.S. airports, and will also be opened to the general public this fall, meaning that any traveler can apply by submitting to a background check, agreeing to be fingerprinted and paying a fee, expected to be $85.

TSA is advising existing Pre-Check participants who enrolled through their airline frequent-flyer programs that they should consider applying through the TSA, “as they are more likely to be selected for Pre-Check expedited screening more often if they are vetted via the Pre-Check application process.”

Applications will be accepted online, but applicants will have to visit an enrollment center to provide a fingerprint. The first two enrollment centers are expected to open this fall at Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport.
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