TSA Weighs "Trusted Traveler" Program


Here's some good news: The Transportation Security Administration is working on a "Trusted Traveler" concept that could allow air passenger to speed through security checks by keeping their shoes on, leaving laptops in bags, and avoiding body scanners altogether.

Dubbed the "Trusted Traveler" program, the Wall Street Journal says the major shift would be one of the biggest improvements at the airport since 2001.

According to TSA administrator John Pistole, the TSA would identify potential candidates by taking data from airline frequent-flier programs. Trusted flier status would be indicated with a bar code on the boarding pass that will be processed by computers and scanners that are to be rolled out at airport checkpoints later this year. Once cleared, the fliers would be able to pass through an expedited security line.

The TSA is weighing their options, but as with any program there would be exceptions and rules, says Pistole. The program would likely only be tailored to specific low-risk routes, particularly those with air marshals on board flights, and might not be offered to passengers on a flight that has bookings for people on the government's "watch list."

"We still want to keep some randomness and unpredictability in there so terrorists can't game the system," says Pistole.

The TSA plans to kick off the program this summer by allowing pilots and flight attendants separate screening without body scanners or pat-downs. If all goes well, full implementation could happen, but will likely take much longer.

"Let's get away from one size fits all," says Pistole. "We think we can improve the processes and focus more on people we know nothing about."

Busy airports such as Denver International and Orlando International already use the "Clear Card," which acts much like a Fast Pass at Disney. After undergoing a one-time background check, iris scan and fingerprinting, fliers are issued a card that allows them to make a quick stop at a biometric scanning before cutting to the front of a security line. The card comes with an annual price tag of $179.

Kate Hanni, founder and spokeswoman for a flier advocacy group Flyersrights.org (and a 2010 Huffington Post Game Changer), says she believes these types of pre-screening programs should be expanded by the government.

"This creates a way for low-risk people to get though quickly and unclog the lines for the rest of the travelers," Hanni said. "We need to start looking at the people, opposed to the objects on their bodies."

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