Secure Flight's takeoff questioned

A senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee has expressed concerns about the timely and effective implementation of the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight program. The program would put TSA officials rather than airlines in charge of checking travelers’ information against terrorism watch lists.

In a letter to TSA Administrator Kip Hawley dated Aug.18, Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), chairwoman of the committee's Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee, said she was concerned about whether the program is on schedule. Jackson Lee added that she was particularly concerned that without the release this summer of the final rule to implement the program, there wouldn't be sufficient time to get Secure Flight fully operational by January 2009, as she said DHS officials had projected.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 required TSA to assume responsibility for comparing passenger information to information on federal terrorism watch lists. TSA's bid to take greater control of the passenger-screening process has faced a series of delays.

In July, Hawley said the final rule would be published by January 2009 and the program was projected to be operational in some capacity by the time the Bush administration leaves office that month. At the time, Hawley said the program's technology testing had gone well and the wait for the program's implementation was due to the regulatory rulemaking process.

Today, a TSA spokeswoman said the rulemaking process was continuing, and agency officials still planned to issue a final rule by the end of the calendar year.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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