Monday, April 9, 2012

Pre-check screening: is it worth it?

This past fall, some US airports started rolling out the Pre-Check program for frequent fliers.  Passengers participating in Pre-Check can volunteer information about themselves (name, gender, birthday, for example), and if they pass a TSA background check will receive a special barcode on their boarding passes.  They will then be admitted to a priority security lane where light outerwear, belts, and shoes can be left on, and laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids can remain in luggage.  The idea is to get the least-risky passengers, who also happen to be the most practiced and thus quickest passengers, through security without hassle, leaving TSA agents freer to spend time and energy on other passengers.

Personally, I think the entire idea of this program undermines the TSA's insistence that what it does is not security theater.  If you are aware that your security measures can be safely scrapped (for certain portions of the population whose potential intent to commit a crime has nothing to do with whether they have previously committed a crime), then that proves the security measures were never vital in the first place.

We are still, in the US, lingering on an issue that is very outdated -- not only was the attack on September 11th ELEVEN YEARS AGO (sorry, ahem), but there is still the notion that terrorists look a certain way, speak a certain way, or adhere to certain dress or religious codes - that frequent fliers/businesspeople do not. 

One of my favorite quotations from the reading I did to research this post was this: "The TSA says that most passengers really pose no risk, so the pre-screening allows it to focus its resources on passengers who might be a problem."  (Most passengers pose no risk?  Why x-ray us, then?)

Given that we have seen white American terrorists, West African terrorists, and plenty of multiethnic domestic terrorists, and folks committing crimes for a variety of reasons, I find it laughable that the TSA would say that frequent fliers wouldn't pose a threat to security.  Sure, it would be nice to alleviate the congestion at the security line, and pulling out the passengers who are super-practiced at going through security could make the process quicker -- but I thought the point was not speediness, but effectiveness?  (For the record, senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) is proposing that it is unjust to have expedited security lines as passengers pay equal amounts for the TSA's services no matter their ticket cost.)

What do you think?  Feel free to disagree with me, I'd love to hear another point of view!

PS - who doesn't love a strip-search of elderly passengers with medical equipment?  Especially one that the TSA denies ever happened?

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