GAO unsure of Secure Flight screening program

The Transportation Security Administration has addressed fully only one of the 10 areas of congressional interest related to development of its Secure Flight airline passenger screening system, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released today.

As a result, it is unclear whether the new system will be effective in determining which passengers should undergo additional security scrutiny, GAO said.

Secure Flight was established in August 2004, after TSA cancelled development of the controversial Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II as a result of delays and concerns about its effectiveness and privacy protections. Congress mandated in October 2004 that the GAO report on 10 aspects of the development of Secure Flight.

As of March 15, TSA has met only one of the 10 requirements by establishing an internal oversight board, GAO said.

Progress in meeting the other nine conditions set by Congress is "Under way," according to GAO. Those conditions include demonstrations of efficacy and accuracy, assessments of the accuracy of databases used, establishment of an effective system to oversee use and operation, and creation of safeguards to prohibit abuse and unauthorized access, among others, GAO said.

"Until TSA finalizes key program documents and completes additional system testing, it is uncertain whether Secure Flight will perform as intended, and whether it will be ready for initial operational deployment by August 2005," the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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