ABC News' Lisa Stark ( @lisastark) reports:
The agency that has come under criticism for patting down the elderly and infants, says it is ready to try a new approach for some passengers. Today the Transportation Security Administration announced a pilot program which it says will move towards “risk-based, intelligence driven” security screening. TSA Spokesman Greg Soule told ABC News, that this pilot is an effort to “focus more on passengers we know less about, and not focus our resources as much on passengers who are less of a risk. However, there will continue to be an element of randomness and unpredictability.”
The pilot program will begin this fall, initially with Delta Airlines at its hubs in Atlanta and Detroit, and with American Airlines at its hubs in Dallas and Miami. The airlines, working with the TSA, have identified frequent flyers, passengers who “who have an extensive travel history”, according to Soule.
The airlines will be contacting these passengers to ask if they want to participate in the pilot program. Those who agree will have an indication on their boarding pass that they are part of this program. When they’re traveling, they’ll be directed to a special security lane for expedited screening. The TSA, for security reasons, would not say what kind of screening these passengers might be able to forgo. It’s unclear, for example, whether these travelers would be able to leave on their shoes, leave laptops in their cases, and bring through their water bottles. Also, TSA has made it clear that there are no guarantees that the passengers won’t be subject to full screening. In a statement, TSA Administrator John Pistole, said, “TSA will continue to incorporate random and unpredictable screening measures throughout the airport and no individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.”
Also eligible for the new program will those who are already in the Custom and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs. Those asked to participate will be U.S. citizens.
TSA says it plans to expand the program to other airports, and other airlines, including United, Southwest, JetBlue, USAirways, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines.
Pistole said, “These improvements will enable our officers to focus their efforts on higher risk areas.” Enhancing identity-based screening is another common sense step in the right direction as we continue to strengthen overall security, and improve the passenger experience whenever possible.”
Right now, the TSA makes virtually no distinctions between passengers being screened. Ever former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday got a pat down at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Rumsfeld tweeted about it – “It takes those of us with two titanium hips and a titanium shoulder a bit longer to get through TSA.”