In the face of public anger over intrusive airport security procedures, the U.S. Travel Association is recommending the federal government accelerate the creation of a “trusted traveler” program which would result in an air travel security screening process that is more secure, efficient and effective. The program would be operated by the federal government’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). U.S. Travel reports it is convening a panel to develop recommendations for the system.
“There is a shared sense of a better, smarter way to make the air travel security system more secure and efficient for travelers,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the association. “We believe a trusted traveler program should be the centerpiece of an enhanced air travel security process.”
U.S. Travel’s proposal would allow travelers who voluntarily share biometric and biographical information, pass robust background checks to confirm their “low-risk” nature and are verified by TSA at the time of travel would be allowed to pass through an alternative security process.
“Such a program would enable the shift of security resources from a large pool of “low-risk” travelers to allow a more sustained focus on a smaller pool of travelers who are not pre-screened to determine their level of risk,” U.S. Travel said.
“The vast majority of the traveling public poses little threat to our nation’s security, yet the current approach subjects every passenger to the same security procedures,” Dow said. “A trusted traveler program would allow us to focus more security where it is most needed, while reducing unnecessary hassles for the majority of low risk travelers. Surely the United States can find a way to implement such a common sense approach.”
U.S. Travel’s proposed program follows the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that 100 percent of domestic and inbound passengers are now being checked against terrorism watch lists in a program known as Secure Flight.
“Secure Flight has been a successful partnership between airlines, online reservation systems and the government to ensure that known risks are not allowed access to aircraft flying within the U.S.,” said Dow. “It provides a glimpse of what more efficient security might look like.”
U.S. Travel outlined basic principles of the program:
• Screening passengers for security risks prior to checkpoints. A trusted traveler program would allow for a pre-screening process before travelers arrived at the airport. This risk assessment would reduce bottlenecks at the airport and allow security resources to be diverted from the vast majority of passengers who are extremely low-risk.
• Refocusing security resources. Directing the TSA’s screening resources, technologies and specialized skills towards a smaller pool of passengers whose backgrounds and travel habits are less known will increase public confidence in security procedures and ensure the most effective use of TSA resources.
• Deterring potential threats. Creating an effective, efficient approach to security could alleviate congestion at security checkpoints, which themselves represent an attractive target to would-be terrorists.
• Guarding Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. Eliminating many physical security measures for passengers who opt in to a trusted traveler program could strengthen public trust that the federal government is working to balance privacy, civil liberties, efficiency and security of air travelers who are verified as being “low risk.”