TSA launches Secure Flight for passengers

The Transportation Security Administration has taken over terrorist watch-list screening for four domestic airlines under its Secure Flight program and expects to be screening all domestic flights by early 2010.

TSA also intends to screen all international airline passengers by the end of 2010, the agency said in a news release issued March 31.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, airlines have been responsible for checking passenger names against federal terrorist watch lists. TSA made two earlier efforts to perform its own screenings under the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Versions I and II, but those projects were dropped due to privacy and security concerns.

The Secure Flight screening program has been in development since 2004 and has been delayed by privacy and cybersecurity concerns.

"The implementation of Secure Flight is a critical step toward mitigating threats we know exist in our aviation system," TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides said. "Secure Flight improves security and protects passenger privacy and civil liberties by ensuring the confidentiality of government watch-list matching protocols."

Under Secure Flight, airlines must gather a passenger's full name, date of birth and gender when making an airline reservation. TSA uses that information to help determine if the passenger matches an entry on the no-fly or selectee watch lists.

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Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 15, 2010 JC DC

Lets stop the charade and get serious. The Federal Government should have started issuing National ID's long ago. Our government already knows everything they need to know about every legal citizen, so this additional data would simply serve as an update to existing databases. Make it an opt-in system, with the holders paying for the card... If someone is concerned about the application process, then don't get one. But, allow those that do get one to benefit from faster flight check-in, as well as online and direct Federal/State/Local services. As for the form of ID, SmartCards such as the CAC Card (or PIV/TWIC/FRAC card) would be the right approach. Based on the previous comment, it seems many people still have no clue how these cards actually work. So, here are a number of reasons why SmartCards would be the best approach: 1) These cards normally only contain basic information about an individual, however you can put whatever identifying information you want on these cards. (Note to privacy advocates- all sensitive personal data is stored on the original application and not placed on the smartcard) 2) These cards come with clearly defined procedures for issuance and control. You must be prescreened (vetted) to get a card. If you don't pass pre-screening, then you don't get a card. (ala Passport) 3) These cards have secure methods to automatically verify authenticity of the card holder and the card issuer. (Fraudulent Cards would be immediately identified and blocked from use) 4) SmartCards have predefined lifespans and renewal procedures. 5) An individual card can be revoked at any time electronically, causing the card to be immediately unusable. 6) Just as they already issue Passports, our US Post Offices could take on the role of issuing these cards. (Note- the Post Office actually was preparing do this 10 years ago!).

Tue, Apr 7, 2009

Like sure, they're going to book flights using their REAL names - duh!

Mon, Apr 6, 2009 Washington, DC

If I were an entry level clerk at TSA, and they asked me what I would do to improve passenger security, I might come up with this kind of plan. Stunning lack of imagination and poor grasp of reality. Classic definition of INSIDE the box thinking.

Mon, Apr 6, 2009 Rob

Do you really trust TSA? I travelled a lot up until last year and had the dubious honor of watching TSA in action. In several airports that had the checkpoints next to the gate I would watch the TSA employees take items that someone left behind and put them in their pocket (and no, I was NOT about to make me a target by complaining). Since I only fly on the taxpayer dollar anymore, it is not worth the potential loss of personal information to let TSA have it. I still wonder if half of the so called security measures are nothing more than an attempt by the airline infrastructure to get people to spend more time in the airport with less brought in items so they have to use the overpriced vendors.

Fri, Apr 3, 2009

Let's just stop worrying about being PC and implement profiling. Israeli airlines have been doing this effectively for years. It would be more efficient to just inconvenience the few who fit the profile rather than submitting the masses to invasive searches and unnecessary delays.

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