In June 2007 a layer of aviation security was added when the TSA assumed travel document checking responsibilities from airline contractors. Specially trained Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) using black lights and magnifying glasses, were positioned in front of the checkpoint to check passengers boarding passes and identification. Since the program was implemented, security officers performing document checking duties have found thousands of suspect, illegible or expired documents, including passports, visas and drivers licenses.
Now these officers will be replaced by machines. The TSA is unveiling the new technology this month. The new machines are to be tested first at Dulles International Airport near Washington before more and more airports equip with the machines for a testing phase lasting several months.
Domenic Bianchini, director of the TSA`s checkpoint technology says: “We feel that this technology is a step up from the current technology we are using today.” At Dulles Airport the TSA is testing 30 machines from three different companies. The machines look different and use different software but all operate for passengers in a similar way.
The passengers scan their boarding pass bar code on the front of a large computer-equipped podium and then give the boarding pass and their identification to a TSA employee who puts it in a scanner. The computer checks the information from the ID, boarding pass and photo from the ID and if everything matches the TSA agent is prompted to allow the passenger to proceed to the checkpoint.
If the data does not match the security officers will be able to look and see what specific security feature may have caused an alert and if there is an discrepancy it is to be found. Passengers with fraudulent or suspect documents are referred to law enforcement for closer scrutiny and investigation.
The TSA states that the machines do not save the information collected once the agent clears the data to advance to the next passenger. They also state that the devices are designed to check documents in a matter of seconds. However CNN measured the time it takes for a passenger to get through at the Dulles Airport and revealed that most passengers took half a minute or more for passing.
The program deals only with document checkers that passengers encounter at the entrance to the checkpoint. It does not change the existing screening inside, including metal detectors, body scanners and X-ray machines.
(c) Picture: freedigitalphotos.net
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Reinhard von Hennigs