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Homeland Security

Secure Flight passenger screening program

Shortly after the CAPPS II program was cancelled, TSA announced that it planned to develop a new passenger prescreening program called Secure Flight. TSA plans to operate Secure Flight on the Transportation Vetting Platform-the development of which began under CAPPS II and includes the software for watch list matching and CAPPS I rules analysis.

TSA plans to use this centralized vetting capability to identify terrorist threats in support of various DHS and TSA programs. Further, TSA plans to use the platform to ensure that persons working at sensitive locations; serving in trusted positions with respect to the transportation infrastructure; or traveling as cockpit and cabin crew into, within, and out of the United States are properly screened depending on their activity within the transportation system. In addition to supporting the Secure Flight and Crew Vetting programs, TSA expects to leverage the platform with other applications such as TSA Screeners and Screener applicants, commercial truck drivers with Hazardous Materials Endorsements, aviation workers with access to secure areas of the airports, alien flight school candidates, and applicants for TSA's domestic Registered Traveler program.

According to TSA, Secure Flight will leverage the system development efforts already accomplished for CAPPS II, but will have several fundamental differences. Specifically, TSA is designing Secure Flight to incorporate only some of the capabilities planned for CAPPS II such as the core capabilities of watch list matching and CAPPS I rules application. Secure Flight will also only prescreen passengers flying domestically within the United States, rather than passengers flying into and out of the United States. The table below provides a summary of the capabilities planned for CAPPS II, as compared with the capabilities currently provided by the current passenger prescreening program and those planned for the Secure Flight program. As shown in the table, TSA does not plan to add additional features beyond the current passenger prescreening program, with the exception of matching Passenger Name Record (PNR) data against an expanded terrorist watch list, which will be provided by the TSC. TSA is also exploring the feasibility of using commercial data as part of Secure Flight if the data are shown, through testing, to increase the effectiveness of the watch list matching feature. TSA does not currently plan for Secure Flight to include checking for criminals, performing intelligence-based searches, or using alert lists. TSA has not yet determined whether Secure Flight will assume the application of CAPPS I rules from the air carriers, or if an opt-in list capability will be used as part of Secure Flight.

To consolidate and strengthen TSA's screening capability, in November 2004, DHS combined the Office of National Risk Assessment-which developed CAPPS II-with the Credentialing Program Office to become the Office of Transportation Vetting and Credentialing. By merging these two offices, TSA expects to help provide assurance that Secure Flight and the various credentialing programs within DHS and TSA, which operate on the Transportation Vetting Platform, will be executed effectively. In addition, in an attempt to achieve greater synergy and avoid duplication of effort, DHS has proposed in its fiscal year 2006 budget request to create an Office of Screening Coordination and Operations within DHS's Border and Transportation Security Directorate. The purpose of this office will be to coordinate a comprehensive approach to several ongoing terrorist-related screening initiatives-in immigration, law enforcement, intelligence, counterintelligence, and protection of the border, transportation systems, and critical infrastructure. If implemented, this office would absorb Secure Flight as well as additional DHS and TSA screening programs, including programs operating on the Transportation Vetting Platform.

Secure Flight, as of March 2005, is undergoing development and testing, and policy decisions regarding the operations of the program have not been finalized. However, TSA officials have described how they anticipate Secure Flight to operate, as illustrated in the figure below. When a passenger makes flight arrangements, the air carrier or reservation company will complete the reservation by entering PNR data in its reservation system, as had always been done. Once the reservation is completed, the PNR will be electronically stored by the air carriers. Approximately 72 hours prior to the flight, the PNR will be sent to Secure Flight through a network connection provided by DHS's CBP. Reservations that are made less than 72 hours prior to flight time will be sent immediately to TSA. Upon receipt of the PNR, TSA plans to process the PNR data through the Transportation Vetting Platform. During this process, Secure Flight will determine if the data contained in the PNR match the data in the TSC terrorist screening database and potentially analyze the passenger's PNR data against the CAPPS I rules, should TSA decide to assume this responsibility from the air carriers.

As noted earlier, TSA has not yet determined whether CAPPS I rules processing will be performed by TSA or by the air carriers. In order to match PNR data to information contained in the terrorist screening database, TSC plans to provide TSA with a subset of the database for use in Secure Flight, and provide updates as they occur. All individuals listed in the TSC data subset are to be classified as either selectees (will be required to undergo secondary screening before being permitted to board an aircraft) or no-flys (will be denied boarding unless they are cleared by law enforcement personnel). When Secure Flight completes its analysis, each passenger will be assigned one of three screening categories: normal screening required (no match against the terrorist screening database or CAPPS I rules), selectee (a match against the selectee list or the CAPPS I rules, or random selection), or no-fly (a match against the no-fly list). The results will be stored within the Secure Flight system until 24 hours prior to departure, at which time they will be returned to the air carriers.

As shown in the figure above, when the passenger checks in for the flight at the airport, the passenger will receive a level of screening based on his or her designated category. A "normal screening" passenger will be provided a boarding pass and allowed to proceed to the screening checkpoint in the normal manner. A "selectee" passenger will receive a boarding pass but will undergo additional security scrutiny at the screening checkpoint. A "no-fly" passenger will not be issued a boarding pass. Instead, appropriate law enforcement agencies will be notified. Law enforcement officials will determine whether the individual will be allowed to proceed through the screening checkpoint or if other actions are warranted, such as additional questioning of the passenger or taking the passenger into custody. TSA expects that all information specific to a PNR record will be purged from the Secure Flight temporary storage database 72 hours after completion of the itinerary, unless a redress action is initiated by the passenger. TSA plans to use the redress process to provide passengers who believe they were inappropriately delayed from boarding their scheduled flights because of Secure Flight a means by which to appeal these decisions.

After the completion of testing, TSA plans to make policy decisions regarding the scope and operation of Secure Flight, including the required PNR data to be obtained from air carriers and whether Secure Flight will use commercial data to enhance the watch list matching capability. TSA expects to begin initial operations of Secure Flight with two U.S. air carriers in August 2005 and systematically bring other U.S. air carriers online with Secure Flight in 2006. TSA estimates that Secure Flight will prescreen about 2 million domestic passengers per day when fully operational with all domestic air carriers. For fiscal year 2005, TSA was allocated $35 million for the development of Secure Flight. The President's fiscal year 2006 budget request includes approximately $81 million for Secure Flight development and implementation.

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Page last modified: 13-07-2011 12:51:34 ZULU