Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TSA To Improve and Stop Screening Your Grandmother and Baby

A long-delayed government program designed to more accurately prescreen the names of airline passengers against terror watch lists is expected to begin early next year. Hopefully soon you wont have to worry about granny or your infant daughter being cavity searched by TSA because their name was Jane Smith who is also on the watch list.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the final rule for the program, called Secure Flight, which would validate air travelers' information so there's less chance a person could be mistaken for someone else on a watch list. The program has been delayed several times because of privacy concerns.

Misidentification of passengers has been one of the biggest inconveniences in post-Sept. 11 air travel, and widely known for putting thousands of innocent U.S. residents and well-known figures like Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., through extensive searching and questioning before they were allowed to fly. It has also raised questions about infants traveling with their families.

Currently, passenger prescreening for domestic flights is handled by the individual airlines. But airlines do not always tap into the most up-to-date watch lists, which contain names of people whom intelligence agencies have determined should not be on planes. Under the new program, the airlines will be responsible for collecting a passenger's full name, gender and birth date, as opposed to the current practice of only collecting the passenger's name.

"We know that threats to our aviation system persist," Chertoff said. "Secure Flight will help us better protect the traveling public while creating a more consistent passenger prescreening process, ultimately reducing the number of misidentification issues."

The program will be phased in during the first half of next year.

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