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Federal team unveils air security plans

Federal team unveils air security plans

The US Secretary of Transportation's Rapid Response Team on air travel security late Friday made public a set of recommendations that build on President George W. Bush's September 27 call to make commercial airports and airliners more secure against terrorism.

The team's recommendations call for significant new uses of information technology, including issuing "smart" credentials for passengers and provisions for integrating intelligence agencies' data with information in airport and airline databases.

The team proposed that the government set up a new federal security agency run by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The agency would oversee the progress of setting new standards for security operations, background checks and the training of security personnel, according to a statement.

Some of the new security standards would include linking airline and airport computing systems with those run by law enforcement organizations and national security agencies. The government would gain access to passenger reservation data, employee and passenger identification and carriers' background check information.

The background checks would include putting all passengers through the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (CAPPS). CAPPS is a tool for looking at information about a passenger in a carrier's reservation system and "scoring" the passenger as either a "selectee" or a "non-selectee." The two characterizations can narrow down which passengers may be a more likely threat.

In addition, the team suggested that a host of new identification technologies be used to check the identities of airport workers and passengers and the contents of baggage.

"The Rapid Response Team urges that available technologies be incorporated more widely in or airport security program as soon as practicable," the team wrote in the statement.

However, the team voiced concerns that using technology such as biometric scanning in addition to current security check points could create large lines and slow airport operations. With this in mind, the team proposed the use of "smart" credentials that could validate a traveller's identity and background in advance, if the passenger chose to participate. Those passengers who were not previously deemed to be a risk could pass to the gate "through a less intense security process."

The reports can be found at http://www.dot.gov.

Steve Lawson contributed to this report.


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