TSA Considering Major Airport Security Shakeup

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is considering a significant shift in the way airport security is handled, moving towards a more "intelligence-driven system," that would focus on "higher-risk passengers," the head of the agency said today.

Under the plan, all air passengers would not be treated as potential terrorists.

"If we want to continue to ensure the secure freedom of movement for people and commerce across this great nation and around the world, there are solutions that go beyond the one-size-fits-all system," TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said in a speech at the American Bar Association's (ABA) 6th Annual Homeland Security Law Institute in Washington.

"Everyone is familiar with the current system in place that screens nearly everyone the same way," Pistole said. "My vision is to accelerate TSA's evolution into a truly risk-based, intelligence-driven organization in every way."

The TSA team "is making good progress," in developing new airport security methods, Pistole said.

He said more than 628 million passengers are screened at airport in the U.S. each year and noted "the vast majority of the 628 million present little-to-no risk of committing an act of terrorism."

"We want to focus our limited resources on higher-risk passengers, while speeding and enhancing the passenger experience at the airport," Pistole said.

He did not give say how the new approach might play out at airports, but said he would announce more details later this year.

One idea the agency has explored is having passengers provide additional information about themselves in advance of flights so the TSA can do a risk assessment, and more quickly move those passengers deemed lower risk through airport screening.

Some passengers might even be able to skip taking off their shoes and having to take their laptops out of their carry-on bags.

Under this type of plan, the information collected would be more extensive than the TSA's current Secure Flight Program which requires air passengers to submit their full name, date of birth and gender before they are issued a ticket, so the TSA can check names against its No-Fly List.

In December, a trade group for the world's airlines unveiled a futuristic checkpoint tunnels proposal that would similarly focus on finding "bad people, not just bad objects." The International Air Transport Association said the high-tech system, which it hopes to test by 2013, would be used to speed passengers not deemed high risk through airport security checkpoints.

Pistole admitted the current TSA security screening system is "not perfect."

"We can all testify to the inconvenience we sometimes experience because of such a comprehensive system," he said. "But the other thing we can say with absolute confidence is that this system has effectively secured aviation in this nation since 9/11."
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