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Wed, Oct 05, 2011

Pistole Announces 'TSA PreCheck' In Amsterdam Speech

Trusted Traveler Program To Be Tested At Four U.S. Airports

TSA Administrator John Pistole announced a program called "TSA PreCheck" as part of a speech delivered Tuesday at the AVSEC World Conference in Amsterdam. The announcement came as Pistole was outlining a number of the agency's initiatives undertaken since its inception in 2001.

Pistole (pictured) said that the pre-check program is currently in a "proof-of-concept" phase, in which the agency will look at how to further enhance security through passenger pre-screening and whenever possible, expedite the screening process for travelers we know and trust the most, and travelers who are willing to voluntarily share information with us before they travel. "Doing so allows our officers to prioritize screening and focus our efforts on those passengers we know the least about and, of course, those on terrorist watch lists," he said. "Efficiencies gained by implementing more risk-based security methods allow us to make the best possible use of the resources we’ve been given to secure air travel."

Pistole said initially, select frequent fliers from Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and certain members of CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS who are U.S. citizens and who are also flying domestically on Delta or American are eligible for this screening option. Should they opt in to this program, it could qualify them for expedited checkpoint screening at select checkpoints at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, as well as Dallas/Ft. Worth International and Miami International airports.

"As with any initiative, we are testing this pre-screening concept with a small passenger population at limited airports," Pistole said. "If proven successful, we will explore expanding the program to additional travelers, airports and airlines."

The TSA administrator said that under the program, certain frequent fliers, as noted previously and if selected for expedited screening, would be directed to a dedicated lane and may receive expedited screening. "Of course, as I mentioned earlier with respect to airport gate and perimeter security, nothing will ever guarantee that a passenger receives expedited security screening.  All travelers need to understand that, to remain effective, TSA must retain the ability to employ random and unpredictable security measures at any point in the process."

Pistole said that TSA has also begun a known-crewmember initiative, beginning with airline pilots in several U.S. airports. Nationwide changes to the security screening process for children 12-and-under were also announced recently. He said both of these concepts reflect the core principles of risk-based security; airline pilots are among our most trusted travelers, and the overwhelming intelligence indicates that children 12-and-under pose little risk to aviation security.

TSA began evaluating the changes for younger travelers in August at six airports, and following the successful proof-of-concept, it began implementing the change September 14, with full implementation on September 26 at airports nationwide. Depending on the day and season, this impacts anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 children and their families each day in the United States.

"These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector, as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection to resolve any alarms that may be triggered," he said. However, "(t)hese changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat-downs of children…again, allowing us to focus our more extensive screening on those assessed as being higher risk."

Pistole also said the agency is continuing to evaluate the value of expanding TSA’s behavior detection program, to help our officers identify people exhibiting signs that may indicate a potential threat. Based on an existing program which was developed by adapting global best practices, he said this effort includes additional training for our Behavior Detection Officers to give them the observational and engagement skills necessary to help them identify those who may be a potential threat to security.

The expanded behavior detection pilot program has been tested at Boston Logan, engaging more than 77,000 passengers thus far in a brief interview prior to screening.

Airports Council International-North America president Greg Principato (pictured)  said in a statement that PreCheck was a welcome shift in how airport screening is conducted.  “Airport officials have long advocated for this type of risk-based approach to airport security that focuses limited screening resources on those about which the least is known," he said. "We believe the program will help in the development of a sustainable system that balances enhanced security with improved customer service. Today’s launch of the PreCheck Program gets us one step closer to looking for bad people, not bad things.”

AVSEC is an aviation security and facilitation conference put on annually by IATA. It is in its 20th year.

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.iata.org/events/pages/avsec-world.aspx, www.aci-na.org

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