Large numbers of non-members in TSA Precheck lines reveal TSA humbug

TSA in action. Photo by Dan Paluska

Pre-Check is the security program offered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which allows some air travelers to use “expedited security lanes” at some airport security checkpoints for both domestic and international travel.

Those passing through Pre-Check security lines avoid full body scanners and/or enhanced pat-downs and instead pass through metal detectors or are scanned with wands. Unlike in standard airport security lines, travelers in Pre-Check lines don’t have to remove their belt, shoes, or lightweight jackets. They can keep their liquids in baggies and laptops in their carry-on luggage while going through x-ray inspection.

TSA Pre-Check lines were instituted to permit pre-scanned or vetted air travelers to more quickly transit through security checkpoints at the airport.

Participants in the Pre-Check program include members of the military, airline frequent fliers invited by airlines, TSA assessed passengers, members of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler programs, as well as members of the TSA Precheck Application Program, and now, randomly chosen members of the “un-prechecked” general air traveling public. I’ll get back to that last category of participant in a moment.

Whether or not some air travelers should be allowed to pay to be vetted in advance, thereby — most of the time — being able to use lower security Pre-Check lines at the airport, is beyond the scope of this column, as is whether or not any TSA security practices are abusive or violate the US Constitution.

It is assumed that members of the military, traveling on their Department of Defense identification, are not security threats. TSA-assessed passengers are air travelers who have been screened through the TSA “Secure Flight System,” or by a combination of screening canines and Behaviour Detection Officers at the airport. Members of CBP trusted traveler programs such as Global Entry and TSA’s own Pre-Check Application Program have been vetted by Homeland Security.

Frequent flier participants chosen by the airlines participating in the Pre-Check program are presumed to be “safe” because of the high number of flights they have taken without incident.

The last of the participants are those members of the general air traveling public who are directed to the lower security Pre-Check lines despite having not been screened or vetted in any way whatsoever.

If you’ve been at the airport recently, I’m sure you’ve seen TSA officers direct many air travelers to the Pre-Check line who don’t have a Precheck authorization stamped on their boarding pass, mostly because the regular security lines are overburdened and the Precheck lines are under-utilized.

The fact that these unvetted and unscreened air passengers are being shunted through the Pre-Check lines is why, in my opinion, TSA has revealed their airport security to be mostly “humbug,” hokum, little more than security theater, play acting.

Here’s the problem. We have been bombarded by TSA saying how important the full body scanners and enhanced patdowns are to maintaining security for the air traveling public, unless the traveler has already been deemed “safe” through other security methods, such as vetting through a trusted traveler program or the Pre-Check Application program.

These full body scanners and enhanced pat-downs supplanted the metal detectors and wands, which are now used in the Pre-Check lines, which were deemed insufficient for the standard security lines used by the general air traveling public.

Now, however, many unvetted and unscreened air passengers are going through the Pre-Check line which, according to TSA’s own standards, are insufficient to screen those very members of the air traveling public.

As far as I can tell, this situation can infer only three possibilities.

1. The old style security systems used by TSA, of metal detectors and wands, were sufficient, so their replacement by full body scanners and enhanced pat-downs is little more than “empire building,” by TSA administrator; or

2. The need for TSA informational or behavioral screening or vetting via trusted traveler programs or the Pre-Check Application program is a waste of time, since they are putting unscreened and unvetted people through the line which was supposed to be limited to passengers “known” to be safe; or

3. Most of the security used at airport checkpoints by TSA, specifically full body scanners and enhanced pat-downs, are nothing more than security theater, play acting to make air travelers “feel” safer, without actually making air travelers safer.

By permitting just about anyone to go through the Pre-Check lines, the low level security lines at the airport, TSA has admitted they’ve been scamming Congress and the American public about airport security, the imposition of intrusive security measures such as enhanced pat-downs and wasting untold tax dollars with the purchase and use of full body scanners.

With the truth about TSA security revealed, I want to know what the Obama Adminstration and Congress are going to do about it. A good start would be to remove the full body scanners from the airports, ban the enhanced patdowns, and fire all upper level TSA administrators and their bosses at the Department of Homeland Security.