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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Bipartisan Legislation Would Address Vulnerabilities in TSA Expedited Screening

Legislation that would “address serious security vulnerabilities identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) and the Comptroller General about how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) carries out expedited airport checkpoint screening has been introduced in the House.

The legislation comes on the heels of TSA having drawn fire during a congressional hearing in March for allowing a former member of a domestic terrorist group convicted of murder and other crimes involving explosives “was permitted to travel with expedited screening through the PreCheck process,” according to the DHS IG.

The redacted public version of the IG’s report, Allegation of Granting Expedited Screening Through TSA PreCheck Improperly, “stemmed from a whistleblower disclosure which alleged that a notorious felon was improperly cleared for TSA PreCheck screening and was allowed to use the PreCheck lanes," the IG said.

The Securing Expedited Screening Act would direct TSA to limit expedited screening to passengers who:

  • Participate  in  the  TSA  PreCheck  known  traveler  program  or  another  Department  of Homeland Security trusted traveler program;
  • Are military service members, disabled military service members, and veterans traveling on Honor Flights, and other passengers eligible for expedited screening pursuant to the Risk Based Security for Members of the Armed Forces Act, the Helping Heroes Fly Act, and the Honor Flight Act;
  • Are in populations identified by TSA as known and low risk; and
  • Are 75 or older, or 12 years and under and traveling with a parent or guardian who is a participant of the PreCheck program.

Pursuant to the legislation, if passed by Congress, if TSA wants to utilize an alternate method to make determinations of eligibility for expedited screening for passengers outside of the authorized categories, TSA must secure an independent assessment that the method is designed to:

  • Reliably and effectively identifies passengers who likely pose a low risk to the aviation system;
  • Mitigate the likelihood that a passenger who may pose a security threat is selected for expedited screening; and
  • Address known and evolving security threat to the aviation system.

To ensure passengers who participate in the PreCheck program continue to get expedited screening, the bill specifically includes a provision requiring TSA to ensure that expedited screening remains available at or above the level that exists on the day before the day of enactment.

“Expedited screening can be a critical aspect to our layered aviation security infrastructure but it must be employed using proven methods that do not create security gaps. After a recent incident and numerous reports, I do not have confidence that TSA’s use of random or case-by-case, on-site security risk assessments to identify passengers for expedited screening is keeping us secure,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, noting, “That is why I introduced legislation to limit expedited screening to certain, known low-risk groups. This bill will also ensure that specific criteria are met if expedited screening is expanded.”

"This legislation seeks to ensure that the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program is conducted in a responsiblemanner, which does not cause unnecessary security vulnerabilities in passenger security screening,” said Rep. John Katko (R-NY), chairman of the committee’s transportation security subcommittee. “As threats to our aviation sector continue to evolve, it is critical that we do not become complacent and that TSA is held accountable for ensuring the security of the traveling public. The risk-based security model, including the Pre-Check program, has been an important step forward in keeping our skies safe and improving the passenger screening experience. I continue to support risk-based security and TSA PreCheck and look forward to seeing the program’s continued success going forward.”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), ranking member of the transportation security subcommittee, added, “If you’re one of the million-plus people who have submitted your biographic information, undergone thorough vetting and enrolled in the PreCheck program, then it makes sense that you should receive expedited screening. But when a convicted felon and former member of a domestic terrorist organization can be given that same privilege without being vetted, something clearly needs to change. This legislation will ensure that expedited screening is available only to passengers enrolled in trusted traveler programs like PreCheck and other passengers known to be low-risk. This is a common-sense response to a major security gap, and I urge my colleagues to give it their full support.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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