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TSA plans 'trusted traveler' program

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  May 6, 2011 10:21 AM

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The Transportation Security Administration is considering a "trusted travelers'' program that would allow certain passengers to speed through security checkpoints without having to shed their shoes, show their laptops, or undergo a body scan. If it is implemented this would mark a major shift for the TSA, which has resisted such programs for years.

John Pistole, the TSA administrator and a former deputy FBI director, told Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat blog, that the agency would use data from frequent-flier programs, which many carriers have kept for decades, to identify potential "trusted travelers.'' Boarding passes of individuals in the program would be marked with a bar code, and those passengers would go through an expedited screening line after presenting their passes and valid identification.

Pistole says that the "trusted traveler'' program would apply generally to flights deemed a lower security risk, such as those on regional jets to smaller cities or staffed by air marshals.

The TSA will try out the program in stages. Starting this summer, the agency will allow some pilots and flight attendants to go through screenings without scanners or pat-downs. TSA will then run tests at different airports and ultimately make a decision about whether and when to go forward with full implementation.

Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman, said the agency had not yet made any decision about what role, if any, Logan International Airport will have in the testing.

In past years, TSA administrators have shied away from programs to reduce levels of screening, fearing that they would allow terrorists easier access to planes. But passengers have clamored for them. So the agency has allowed private companies to offered "registered traveler'' plans. One such company, Verified Identity Pass, offered the Clear program under which travelers paid an annual fee and submitted personal information. Clear customers got access to special lines at airports but had to undergo the same screening as everyone else so the program failed to take off, and Verified Identity Pass drop Clear and suspended operations in 2009.


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