The Transportation Security Administration plans to review its procedures following Friday’s shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport, in which a TSA officer was slain by a 23-year-old man who carried a note saying that he “made the conscious decision to try to kill” TSA workers.
But the TSA must now try to balance the need to make things easier for travelers who pose no threat and people who may actually pose a threat to TSA officers themselves, in addition to the traveling public.
In late October, the New York Times reported that the TSA was expanding screening procedures to start long before passengers take off their shoes and remove laptops from their backpacks before stepping through body scanners and being sent on their way.
Under the new program, the Times reported, the TSA can access a prospective flyer’s “tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.”
The new measures vastly expand the TSA’s long-standing procedures which access a passenger’s passport number and compare his or her basic biographical info against terrorist watch-list data.
Though the TSA says that the new measures are designed to smooth the way for the overwhelming majority of flyers who simply want to get from place to place without trouble, they have raised obvious privacy concerns.
“The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search,” Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy expert who opposes the new measures told the Times. “Anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”
Meanwhile, the TSA is now weighing whether its own employees should be armed. But the agency has gone ahead with relaxed screening policies that allow certain travelers who participate in a pre-screening program to sail through security without the hassle of removing shoes, laptops and other items.
Authorities say that those policies had no bearing on gunman Paul Ciancia who got through security by firing an assault rifle.
SOURCES: New York Times, Washington Post