An as yet unidentified person described as someone who was, “involved in numerous felonious criminal activities that led to arrest and conviction, and served a multiple-year prison sentence” was passed through the TSA PreCheck, expedited security screening lane. This happened despite the fact that one of the agents recognized the passenger and reported their presence in the line to their supervisor. And yet, according to the TSA, there was nothing going wrong and no report of the incident is on file.
The Transportation Security Administration allowed a former member of a domestic terrorist group to travel through an expedited screening process known as TSA PreCheck, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.
The TSA PreCheck Program allows eligible travelers to bypass the typical cumbersome screening process afforded to everyone else. Despite a transportation security officer’s (TSO) recognition of the “sufficiently notorious convicted felon based on media coverage,” the report says, the TSA did not stop the expedited screening process. “The TSO followed the standard operating procedures and reported this to the supervisory TSO who then directed the TSO to take no further action and allow the traveler through the TSA PreCheck lane,” the report says. “As a result, TSA does not have an incident report for this event.”
The response by the TSO is certainly questionable to say the least and will no doubt merit further investigation. But this incident highlights the rather curious – and dubious – nature of the entire PreCheck program. I fly a lot, so I’m quite familiar with the routines they are talking about in this incident. This did not involve someone was actually part of the PreCheck program, which requires background checks. That system, while also far from perfect, allows you to submit an application in person, get fingerprinted, present ID and pay a non-refundable $85 fee. If you manage to get through all of that you’ll get a special Trusted Traveler number which will supposedly ensure that all of your boarding passes get you into the fast lane at the airport.
But people without one of these magic keys to the travel kingdom also wind up with a PreCheck pass at times. It’s even happened to me, though I seem to be on some sort of list which has my bag pulled on every single flight to be opened and inspected. The TSA claims that there’s all sorts of criteria, “seen and unseen” which go into deciding who gets that special experience. Maybe so, but on my way back from CPAC I was part of a group of more than half a dozen people standing in the security line who were grabbed and put into the PreCheck line without anyone looking at our ID or boarding passes. I guess that was the “unseen” part.
In any event, that’s apparently what happened to the domestic terrorist in this story. He (or she) was not a PreCheck Trusted Traveler but was selected for the faster line. You do have to wonder how famous of a criminal this was, however, if a harried TSA agent was able to pick them out of the line just by recognizing their face. And if they were that infamous, wouldn’t you shuffle them back to the body scanner?
I just feel more secure at the airports every time I travel, don’t you?