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Lessened Security Checks for a Select Few at US Airports

ORLANDO, FL – The Department of Homeland Security announced a pilot program aimed at speeding airline passengers through pre-flight security checks is expanding to Orlando and at least another two dozen other cities. A special lane will be provided allowing select, pre-screened passengers to avoid taking off their shoes and similar inconveniences.

This PreCheck program being tested by the Transportation Security Administration’s is only for a limited segment of airline passengers. Specifically it will be offered for select airlines frequent-flier programs and by busy international travelers enrolled in a federal registry.

Authorization to take advantage of the express lanes is determined by embedded information in the bar code of a boarding pass. TSA agents at designated check-in stands will scan boarding passes and send approved passengers to the appropriate line. Travelers qualifying for PreCheck will not know in advance if they qualify for a speedier security check.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the PreCheck program will “increase our security capabilities and expedite the screening process for travelers we consider our trusted partners.”

The PreCheck program first began in Dallas, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Las Vegas last year and has screened more than 336,000 fliers. PreCheck is now expanding to Olrando, Tampa, Charlotte, N.C., Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans and 23 other airports.

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Up to this point, fliers have qualified for the program through existing federal Trusted Traveler programs. Qualification for the PreCheck program has come through application fees or, in the case of American and Delta airlines, from among their frequent-flier memberships. United Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines will join the program later this year.

Carolyn Fennell, an airport spokeswoman said it could help move all passengers through security more quickly. “We certainly are very pleased at being chosen for this,” Fennell said. “Any process that expedites a certain volume of passengers will increase the capacity for other travelers who need more attention.”

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said that, as the program expands, frequent fliers will be invited by participating airlines to sign up. Participation will be limited to the airlines that fliers enrolled with and to the airports where the service is offered. TSA officials, however, emphasized that random checks will continue even among those fliers enrolled in PreCheck.

“Good, thoughtful, sensible security by its very nature facilitates lawful travel and legitimate commerce,” Napolitano said.

TSA Administrator John Pistole called it a “move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more-intelligence-driven, risk-based transportation-security system.”

The irony of this program is that Homeland security is presenting this program as a privilege being offered to select fliers. While a move in the right direction, this still does not address the basic problem with the TSA. Rather than allowing selected profiling of likely terrorists it is still taking the approach that all fliers are considered suspects.

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