Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Are scanners on their way out?

I am cautiously optimistic that the feds are trying to quietly abandon the naked scanner program. I have been railing against the Trusted Traveler program, now renamed to PreCheck, but I now see this despicable program as, perhaps, a path to being able to fly again. Blasphemous, I know. But bear with me.

Businessweek reports:

"The TSA plans to begin randomly assigning travelers into the PreCheck program when they check in for a flight, assigning the quicker access with a notice on the boarding pass. No new passenger data will be needed—and TSA officials emphasize that there’s no form of request or lobbying a traveler can do to be chosen for the quicker line. The TSA wants to migrate about 25 percent of the travelers it screens each day—about 450,000 people—into the PreCheck lines to improve efficiency."

Naked scanners are expensive to buy, take up a lot of precious space at checkpoints, are likely very costly to maintain, and are politically somewhat unpopular. In addition, the TSA has backed itself into a corner where, in order to maintain the illusion of scanner efficacy while simultaneously giving legal cover for privacy concerns, they created the even more unpopular pat-down opt-out. Many TSA employees probably hate the pat-downs, so now they have disgruntled employees to deal with (not to mention, train). Finally, the scanners are actually not effective at catching determined, intelligent evil-doers.

So, perhaps, the TSA is trying to phase out the scanners in a way that they believe well save face and not anger the vested interests. After all, Chertoff's Rapiscan already lost its contract.


Changing gears a bit from seeing into the murky motives of government, what should a protestor such as myself do about PreCheck. If you're still flying, I think it is entirely reasonable to make your journey more comfortable by ponying up the bribe of $85. The background check and fingerprinting are more worrisome from a privacy perspective, but I think this is a judgment call. Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that you'll get the fast track or avoid the naked scanner. In addition to random checks, this program is not yet instituted at all airports or even all terminals at a participating airport.

One perk - and this is a biggie for me - is children of the PreCheck adult stay with the parent and receive the same level of screening, but they don't have to provide fingerprints, etc. So if you're mostly concerned about protecting your kids, PreCheck is a viable choice. Not a guarantee, but a better chance that you're child will not have their privacy invaded, be molested, or be treated like a criminal.