DHS Enhances Air Traveler Security

On June 7, 2010, Secretary Napolitano announced a major aviation security milestone.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano recently announced that all passengers traveling in the United States and its territories are now being checked against terrorist watchlists through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Secure Flight program—a major step in fulfilling a key 9/11 Commission recommendation.

Before Secure Flight, each airline conducted its own passenger watchlist screening.

“Secure Flight fulfills a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report, enabling TSA to screen passengers directly against government watchlists using passenger name, date of birth, and gender before a boarding pass is issued,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This program is one of our many layers of security—coordinated with our partners in the airline industry and governments around the world—that we leverage to protect the traveling public against threats of terrorism.”

Under the DHS program, TSA checks each passenger’s name, date of birth and gender against government watchlists for domestic and international flights. In addition to facilitating secure travel for all passengers, the program is designed to prevent the misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on government watchlists. Misidentification has led to a significant number of such cases, a few of them well-publicized.

“We are quite pleased to see the positive outcome from the collaborative work that ATA, its member airlines and TSA have invested in the development of the Secure Flight program,” said Air Transport Association (ATA) President and CEO James C. May. “We are especially pleased that TSA phased program implementation to ensure that commercial airline travelers experience a seamless transition.”

Ninety-nine percent of passengers clear Secure Flight enabling them to print boarding passes at home by providing their date of birth, gender and name as it appears on the government ID they plan to use when traveling at the time of booking their airline tickets. Persons who match watchlist parameters are subject to secondary screening, a law enforcement interview or prohibition from boarding an aircraft, as the facts merit.

The TSA began implementing Secure Flight in late 2009 and expects all international carriers with direct flights to the U.S. to begin using Secure Flight by the end of 2010.

Stewart Rabinowitz is President of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. Mr. Rabinowitz is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To contact a Dallas immigration lawyer or Dallas immigration attorney visit Rabinowitzrabinowitz.com