TSA to wrap up Secure Flight reassessment

The Transportation Security Administration expects by next month to complete its reassessment of its controversial Secure Flight airline passenger-prescreening program, according to a letter submitted to Congress by a senior official with the Government Accountability Office.

The 12-page letter was written by Cathleen Berrick, GAO director of homeland security and justice issues, in response to questions presented at a June 14 hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment.

Secure Flight has been in development since 2004, after two earlier prescreening efforts were scrapped over privacy concerns. In all of the programs, passenger names are checked against lists of known and suspected terrorists.

GAO reported in February that Secure Flight is at serious risk of being ineffective, because it was rushed through development without rigorous, disciplined definition of its requirements. What's more, it may fall short on protecting privacy and system security.

In response to such concerns, TSA suspended Secure Flight development earlier this year and has been conducting a reassessment. It anticipates completion in September, Berrick wrote in the Aug. 4 letter.

"Whatever direction Secure Flight takes, TSA needs to follow a disciplined system development approach that fully defines system requirements, schedule and costs," the letter stated.

Furthermore, TSA must assess the technologies involved, conduct testing to verify that the system is functioning as intended and establish privacy protocols and redress procedures, Berrick wrote.

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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