TSA and industry envision airport security's hassle-free future

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The future of airport security will bring less hassle, time delay and privacy invasion, and changes are not far off, government and industry leaders told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Nov. 2.

"You have to look for dangerous people, not just dangerous things," said Charles Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives, who said that growth of airport travel in the future will overwhelm the Transportation Security Administration's ability to screen travelers if the agency sticks to current techniques.

Accordingly, the "checkpoint of the future" shouldn't be bogged down by nail clippers that trigger alarms and children whose names match people on the no-fly list, said Kenneth Dunlap of the International Air Transport Association.

The process for more efficient screening has been designed and could be fully implemented in about 2 years, Dunlap estimated. Beyond that, it will take 7 to 10 years for technology that can detect explosives on people in motion, he added. "That vision is far closer than what we realize," he said.

John Pistole, TSA's administrator, detailed the launch of PreCheck in four airports, where passengers can opt to volunteer information and expedite the screening process at the airport. Pistole also noted the behavioral detection techniques TSA has implemented.

Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, insisted that the problem was not just about the nuisance of security screening. He said the U.S. economy loses billions of dollars per year from passengers who decide not to travel by airplane because they do not want to go through screening.

Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) welcomed the improvements to efficiency but both encouraged committee members not to forget the importance of security.

"We're not at a point where we can ignore looking for dangerous things" and just focus on dangerous people, Lieberman said. He suggested that TSA publicize when it finds weapons because "the average person going through the line...doesn't see somebody get stopped with a weapon, and it's very important to remind people why we ask them to go through this."

Collins pointed out how patient al Qaeda was when it planned its previous attacks and expressed concern that terrorists would commit to learning how to exploit vulnerabilities in a more risk-based system.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (webcast and written testimonies available)

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