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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 02/10/2011

TSA mulls 'trusted traveler' program

By Ashley Halsey III

Transportation Security Administration head John S. Pistole is considering the concept of a "trusted traveler" program that would speed passengers willing to provide detailed advance personal information through airport security checkpoints.

"Under a trusted traveler program they might be able to get a different type of screening," Pistole told a House subcommittee on transportation security on Tuesday.

Pistole said he was evaluating a shift toward a more risk-based system rather than a "one-size fits all approach."

"Right now we're not there yet. Right now we use a one-size fits all approach," Pistole said. "I'm committed to doing something this year that would demonstrate a different paradigm for passenger screening."

The TSA has come under criticism in recent months for use of revealing full-body scanners and vigorous pat-downs for those who refuse them or appear to be carrying suspicious items. The agency began testing new software last week that uses a generic cookie-cutter outline rather than the more revealing body image.

Many other countries use a more risk-based approach based on the visual observations of screeners trained in behavioral patterns and on pre-flight data collected about passengers. When that approach raises alarms the passengers are singled out for further scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Pistole told the committee that would fire any workers who strike or purposely slow their work over disagreements with the agency's labor policies. Ed O'Keefe has more on that issue on the Federal Eye blog.

What do you think? Would you participate in a "trusted traveler program"? Post a comment below.

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TSA debuts new scanner software

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Protests don't delays Thanksgiving travel

Most Americans support scanners

Who is exempt from airport security?

TSA responds to child pat-down video

TSA discourages body-scan boycotts

Government scientists offer alternative to scanner images

Instead of a TSA airport search he'll take the train

TSA officials get 'pat-downs'

Will you undergo a pat-down?

Full-body scanners installed at Dulles

By Ashley Halsey III  | February 10, 2011; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Airports, Aviation  
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El Al doesn't use body scanners or pat-downs. Their screening process is more of a multistage process wherein a passenger is first asked a series of questions by a computer while his or her heartrate is monitored. Then they are asked a series of questions by a ticket agent who is trained to detect nervous or odd behavior, and they aren't afraid to profile. They then go through a few other checkpoints that similarly monitor the passenger's behavior. Having to answer some questions about your background or travel plans may be intrusive, but it's a lot better, IMO, than having to subject yourself to radiation or pat-downs by $10 an hour perverts.

Posted by: pswift00 | February 10, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"Risk based" to El Al equals extreme racial profiling. Call it what you want but their system would NEVER work here. You think passengers complain now? Try being forced to show up to the airport THREE HOURS before your flight.

Posted by: dcmidnight | February 10, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Equal molestation for all!

Posted by: getjiggly1 | February 10, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse

The TSA is suffering from a well earned credibility crisis if you haven't had a terrible experience with them, or witnessed something happening at a checkpoint to someone else that has made you question the prospect of you or your loved ones ever traveling by air again, you just haven't been through enough airports.

The whole process brings up issues of safety, dignity, privacy, psychology, body shape, body image, religious, moral and personal history issues for the 700 million or so passengers who fly every year. To think that something can be designed to work for all of those 700 million passengers is simply ridiculous.

As a result, people's reactions on anything TSA related range from the serious to the totally nuts. There are the cowards, the prudes, the racists, the homophobes, those who bust on TSA agents because they make more money than them, and now the pro-union and anti-union voices will get their chance to sound off. Sigh and yawn.

If you have a fundamentally unworkable idea to begin with no amount of reform will fix that. The model for airport security should be like standard of safety we have for the automobile. The feds set the standard and industry does what it can to design something that both meets the standards and customer needs. I think individual airlines should be able to opt-out of the TSA,

Think of it this way:

If you want super security there can be the "Volvo of airlines." They can feature both scans, pat downs for any and all passengers, and the occasional body cavity search for "bonus coverage."

For SUV drivers who want something big and bloated that only offers a false sense of security the TSA is already in place for them and I am sure some discount airlines would still use it for those who are willing to sacrifice their dignity or at least a pleasant travel experience to save a few bucks.

For sensible people who want to feel safe but also dignified there is the comfortable "mid-size sedan" security method of metal detectors and bomb sniffing machines that lets everyone glide through with their shoes on.

For the sports car driver who prizes speed over safety, well I am sure there is something that can be done for them too.

Whatever the TSA does from here on out it will be the object of scorn and derision, whether it is deserved or not. I like the idea of a trusted traveler program, but then should we trust the same people who, at first, thought patting-down the area between a toddler's legs would be a good idea? Um no. I think it's time to be pragmatic and admit that the whole charade needs to be rethought and redesigned from the ground up.

Posted by: revpasternack | February 11, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Pistole,
Before you waste anymore taxpayer dollars (paid by those who are still fortunate enough to be working). Do some research on the TSA's Registered Taveler Program (and the companies it bankrupted), CAPPS, CAPPS II, and RTIC. Your predescessors have been trying to put lipstick on the same pig since 2005.

TSA is the king of wasteful spending with their amusing program titles and acronyms. The hiring of former stewardesses (with no prior security background) as Transportation Security Inspectors. The funding of the governments good 'ol' boy network of companies through the AIT or developing technologies programs. Allowing the TSO's to unionize, and now the latest...forbidding airports from opting-out of TSA run security.

You are a joke of a security operation, whose only feather in its cap is that another 9/11 hasn't occured (or been attempted)since 2001.

Posted by: jhardaway1 | February 15, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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