The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced the implementation of the Secure Flight program, which shifts pre-departure watch list matching responsibilities from individual aircraft operators to TSA and carries out a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. To date TSA has assumed the watch list matching responsibility for passengers on domestic commercial flights with four volunteer aircraft operators and will add more carriers in the coming months, the TSA says.
"The implementation of Secure Flight is a critical step towards mitigating threats we know exist in our aviation system," said TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. "Secure Flight improves security and protects passenger privacy and civil liberties by ensuring the confidentiality of atch list matching protocols."
Under Secure Flight, 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.
In addition to addressing misidentification, Secure Flight protects sensitive watch list data and enables officials to address security threats sooner, keeping air travel safer. By implementing one watch list matching system, the program provides a fair and consistent matching process across all airlines, the TSA says.
The TSA says it continues to provide a robust redress process through the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). This is a single portal for travelers to seek redress for adverse screening experiences and resolve possible watch list misidentification issues. Secure Flight uses the results of the redress process in its watch list matching process to prevent future misidentification of passengers who may have a name that's similar to an individual on the watch list.
The second stage of implementation, which is expected to begin in late 2009, will assume the watch list matching function for passengers on international flights from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and international air carriers. The TSA said its goal is to vet 100 percent of all domestic commercial flights by early 2010 and 100 percent of all international commercials flights by the end of 2010.