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Thu, May 14, 2009

TSA's Secure Flight Enters First Public Phase

TSA Can Now Screw This Process Up Without Airline Assistance

The TSA thinks this is progress... but those of us who know the TSA all too well, REALLY wonder. The TSA's Secure Flight passenger vetting program will begin asking passengers to enter their full name, as of May 15th, as it appears on the government issued identification they will be traveling with -- when making airline reservations.

This is the first 'publicly-noticeable' step (the second will be the inevitable screw-up... but we digress -- ANN E-I-C) in implementing the multi-phase Secure Flight program which shifts pre-departure watch list matching responsibilities from individual aircraft operators to TSA. The Secure Flight program satisfies a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and congressional requirements from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the 9/11 Commission Act signed into law in 2007.

"By enhancing and streamlining the watch list matching process, the Secure Flight program makes travel safer and easier for millions of Americans," said TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. "During this phase of the Secure Flight program, passengers are encouraged to book their reservations using their name as it appears on the government-issued ID they will use while traveling."

In the near future, small differences between the passenger's ID and the passenger's reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, will not be an issue for passengers. Over time, passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their government issued ID and the travel information they use for booking flights.

The second phase of Secure Flight begins August 15, 2009 when passengers will be required to surrender much more info, starting (for now) with their date of birth, gender and redress number (if available) when booking airline flights.

Once Secure Flight's advanced technology is fully implemented in early 2010, enhanced watch list matching will be done by the government (which has a pretty shoddy track record in this regard). Airlines will gather a passenger's full name, date of birth, and gender when making an airline reservation to determine if the passenger is a match to the No Fly or Selectee lists. By providing the additional data elements of gender and date of birth, Secure Flight will more effectively help prevent misidentification of passengers who have similar names to individuals on the watch list and better identify individuals that may pose a known or suspected threat to aviation.

TSA's goal is to vet 100 percent of passengers on all domestic commercial flights by early 2010 and 100 percent of passengers on all international commercial flights by the end of 2010. Anyone want to take bets to see how well they manage this program?

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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