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Shrinking The Haystack
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The US Travel Association recently called for changes to the current security screening system in a report titled “A Better Way.”

That’s what I’ve been saying for months: there has to be a better way than the invasive rigmarole flyers now endure. We take off our shoes and our belts, let our valuables go through an X-Ray machine, sometimes never to be seen again. Then we are faced with the choice of going through a scanner that creates an image of our naked body, which they tell us is not saved, or to undergo an invasive pat down which is barely one step from an assault. And the crowning lunacy of it all is that everyone is treated as though they are equally likely to blow up the airplane. It’s been almost enough for me to abandon my lifelong love of travel.

Finally the Travel Association is responding to the complaints and frustration of millions of flyers , who object to a system that considers anyone attempting to board an airplane to be a potential terrorist. According to Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security director, who also co-chaired the US Travel Association’s panel, looking for terrorists among the flying public is like looking for a needle in a haystack. To find the needle, “you shrink the haystack.”

To this end, the Travel Association recommends the implementation of a trusted flyer program. After some initial screening and a background check, those who are accepted into the program would undergo minimal airport screening after proving their identity with biometric information.

The other recommendation from “A Better Way” was that airlines should check one bag per passenger included in the ticket price. The current practice of charging for all bags is encouraging people to bring more luggage through security, further delaying the process. And adding to the size of the haystack.

The catch to all this, however, is that Congress would have to approve these changes. Is it likely? Not really. But it is clearly necessary. In the US, the TSA screens nearly 630 million passengers a year which amounts to a pretty big haystack. Anything they can do to make it smaller so they can focus on the people more likely to cause trouble, the better chance they will have to actually catch them.

In the meantime, the TSA is working on streamlining and enhancing the security process. John Pistole, TSA Administrator, says he “welcomes dialogue” from the flying public. I, for one, plan on contributing to the dialogue, so that someday I’ll travel without dreading the airport security portion of the trip.


Street Talk

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