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TSA chief says airport screening tactics are changing

Denver patdownlReuters

Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole told a congressional panel last week that his agency is overhauling the airport screening process that treats everyone the same, including infants and the elderly.

Pistole said the TSA is moving in a new direction to rely more on intelligence-gathering and targeting those travelers the TSA knows least about.

“Since I became TSA administrator, I have listened to ideas from people all over this country,” he told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on Wednesday.

Pistole said the agency is moving in the new direction by expanding several pilot security programs and changing the way children are searched.

But don’t expect the changes to cut down on the long airport security lines during the upcoming holiday travel season. TSA’s revised security tactics probably won’t be expanded nationwide for several months, a TSA spokesman said.

A pilot program that was launched last month and tested at four airports -- Miami, Dallas, Detroit and Atlanta -- lets passengers who volunteer personal information zip through a special screening lane without having to remove their shoes or jackets. Pistole told lawmakers that it has worked so well that he wants to expand it to more airports.

“We are working closely with other airlines and airports to determine when they may be operationally ready to join,” he said, without offering more details.

Another pilot program that was tested in Boston Logan International Airport deploys special “behavior detection officers” who chat with passengers in the terminal to detect suspicious behavior. Pistole said the program was recently expanded to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

Pistole also said the agency has changed its policy for searching children under 12. TSA agents now have the discretion whether or not to perform a pat-down search on youngsters or require that they remove their shoes.

“By streamlining procedures for these lower-risk passengers through programs like these, TSA is better able to focus its finite resources on those who pose higher risks to transportation,” he said.

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-- Hugo Martin

 
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