TSA changes its tune: Will screen based on intel, not passport

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04/02/2010

One of the immediate “knee-jerk” reactions following the Christmas Day bomber attack was to conduct secondary, enhanced screening procedures for all U.S.-bound passengers traveling from 14 “state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest,” according to this Jan. 3 article from CNN.

Well, today the Transportation Security Associated changed its tune again and said it would instead rely on intelligence information to determine who should be subjected to secondary screening, according to Reuters.

"These new measures utilize real-time, threat-based intelligence along with multiple, random layers of security, both seen and unseen, to more effectively mitigate evolving terrorist threats," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the new system would require travelers who match information about terrorism suspects, such as a physical description, partial name or travel pattern, to undergo additional screening.

"So it's much more tailored to what the intel is telling us, what the threat is telling us, as opposed to stopping all individuals of a particular nationality or all individuals using a particular passport," the official said.

There had been negative reaction from some of the 14 countries who had been identified as state sponsors of terror, specifically Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Nigeria, who were angered at being on the list.


Utilizing intelligence information to determine if an individual is threatening is much more in line with what the TSA’s strategy should be anyway. It’s not very efficient or effective to screen everyone coming from certain countries, but rather it’s more important to identify folks who have a suspicious travel history or other intel that qualifies them for secondary screening. If there’s any lessons to be learned from the Christmas Day attack, it’s that better intelligence needs to be communicated among these different government agencies. I think this is a step in the right direction.

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