Friday, March 18, 2011

Who Are You? TSA Exploring Identity Based Screening and Known Travelers

A common statement we hear at checkpoints is "I'm not a terrorist!  Why do I have to go through screening?" While it's extremely likely that's the case, the current system provides us little basis to make that judgment in advance of you arriving at the airport - unless you're on a terrorist watch list.  But... What if we combined our layers of security (i.e. Behavior Detection Officers and watchlists) with more of an identity-based system as opposed to a one size fits all approach where everybody more or less receives the same kind of screening?

For some time now, there has been much talk about implementing a Trusted Traveler program and switching to more of an identity-based approach. Good news... Administrator Pistole is on board with a known traveler approach. He spoke earlier this month at the American Bar Association and talked about his vision for this concept. You can read his remarks here.

The Washington Post also had a story about a new report from the U.S. Travel Association that's calling for changes to airport security that are similar - though not identical - to the idea that Administrator Pistole has previously talked about. We think this type of national conversation is incredibly valuable and hope others continue to weigh in with their ideas to guide the future of checkpoint screening.

One point to keep in mind as we think about these issues is that it's important that we not create a system that would allow a person seeking to do harm to spend several years creating a "clean" background to gain access to a club that guarantees a "right" to expedited screening.

What we hope to do is figure out how to gain more knowledge about the people who are traveling to potentially provide a more streamlined screening experience at the checkpoint.

One possibility would be to have willing passengers provide more information about themselves. A recent example of using identity-based screening would be the decision Administrator Pistole made to change way we screen pilots. It just makes sense that the person who has been cleared to control the plane should not need to undergo the same level of screening. 

Physical screening will likely never go away completely, but the idea of adding identity-based security makes good sense and it's an idea we're actively exploring. So, we'd like to hear your suggestions and ideas. So sound off! (Not that that's ever been a problem here before). 

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team

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