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New TSA screening program implemented

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 14 2012 11:24 p.m. MST

Traveler Linda Burch, right, gets some new security information from TSA's Jennifer Cowdell while going through security at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a new TSA pre lane at the airport designed to enhance security by placing more focus on pre-screening individuals who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Some travelers at Salt Lake City International Airport got a sweet little Valentine's Day surprise when they got to the security checkpoint — permission to forgo the usual screening hassles.

The Transportation Security Administration Tuesday launched the implementation of a passenger pre-screening initiative — called TSA PreCheck — at the state's largest airport. Under the initiative, select Delta Air Lines’ frequent flyers and other preapproved travelers are now eligible to participate and may receive expedited screening benefits during domestic travel, marking the agency’s move toward intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security.

"It's been nice not to have to take your computer out, you're less likely to lose something," said Raymond Orgler — a frequent flyer visiting Utah from Tupelo, Miss.  "It's great for frequent travelers that are tracked a lot and don't have as much risk as the general population."

The initiative is aimed at enhancing security by placing more focus on pre-screening individuals who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying in order to potentially expedite the travel experience, said Robin Kane, TSA assistant administrator for security capabilities.

“Enhancing passenger identification efforts through an identity-based pre-screening initiative such as TSA PreCheck helps us focus our resources and strengthens our capabilities to keep terrorists off commercial aircraft,” he said.

Eligible passengers include those flying on participating airlines as well as members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler programs — including Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS — who are U.S. citizens.

TSA uses pre-screening to make risk assessments on passengers who voluntarily join the  PreCheck program and are flying domestically out of a participating airport on a participating airline, Kane explained.

“Our evaluation of this idea began last fall, and since then more than 350,000 passengers … around the country have experienced expedited security … and the feedback we’ve received is consistently positive,” Kane said.

Originally implemented at seven airports, the agency recently announced the expansion of the TSA PreCheck program to include an additional 28 of the nation’s busiest airports, including Salt Lake City.

If the agency determines a passenger is eligible for expedited screening, information is embedded in the barcode of the passenger’s boarding pass, which is read at the checkpoint. Passengers may be referred to a lane where they will undergo expedited screening, which could include no longer removing shoes, laptops from bags, jackets and belts.

The TSA will continue to perform random security checks throughout the airport and no individual is guaranteed expedited screening, said public affairs officer Lorie Dankers. She said the agency's multi-layered approach to security also includes behavior detection officers, explosives-detection systems, canine teams, and federal air marshals, among other measures both seen and unseen.

In addition to Delta Airlines in Salt Lake City, TSA PreCheck is currently operating with Delta at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas and Minneapolis as well as with American Airlines at airports in Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. US Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines are all opting in new passengers and will begin operations later this year as the initiative grows to 35 airports nationwide in 2012, Dankers said.

The initiative drew favorable reviews from many passengers traveling on the program's first day of implementation in Utah.

"It's a lot quicker, a lot easier," said Joe Hanson of Atlanta. "For the people who travel often, it's quite helpful."

For more information about TSA’s risk-based security initiatives, visit www.tsa.gov

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com Twitter: JasenLee1

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