A blue-ribbon panel of bipartisan experts has called on the federal government to reform its "reactionary" and "one-size-fits-all" approach to aviation security, according to a report issued by the U.S. Travel Association last week.
"We can, and must, build a new traveler-focused system for aviation security," the report concludes, stressing these reforms don't only protect the flying public, but U.S. economic competitiveness globally and the personal right to travel freely.
According to the panel, which was co-chaired by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, reformed checkpoints overseen by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would allow travelers to choose between three different screening methods performed by the agency's transportation security officers (TSOs) (.pdf) at U.S. airports.
The first is a revival of a "Trusted Traveler" program, whereby passengers would voluntarily give up more personal and biological information about themselves in return for an easier and faster screening experience. The report recommends that trusted travelers would only have to pass through an explosives detection portal after using a biometric kiosk to verify their identity without ever having to take off any clothing, empty their pockets, or kick off their shoes. Any carry-on baggage, however, would receive explosives' scanning.
The report estimates that a Trusted Traveler program could be up and running by the end of the year and should be opened to passengers already vetted by the federal government first, such as federal law enforcement members and people holding secret-level security clearances.
The final two alternatives are the current two options today. Passengers can continue to choose between full body scanning, or whatever new sophisticated technologies emerge in the future, and enhanced pat-down searches by TSOs.
According to the report, providing travelers three options should mitigate different privacy concerns stemming from each option. "In a country of over 300 million individuals, we recognize different travelers have different priorities and different visions about their privacy expectations."