GAO to DHS: connect traveler screening programs
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Jan 25, 2007
The Homeland Security Department needs to find better ways to integrate its domestic and international airline passenger screening programs, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The Transportation Security Administration and the commercial airlines are responsible for prescreening domestic airline passengers against terrorist watch lists, while the Customs and Border Protection bureau performs prescreening of international travelers.
"We have recently recommended that DHS make key policy and technical decisions necessary to more fully coordinate CBP's international prescreening program with TSA's prospective domestic prescreening program," the GAO report states.
report reviews progress in enhancing protections for aviation and border security, with a goal of examining those areas and systems penetrated by the Sept. 11 attackers. It provides an update on activity related to several DHS programs, including the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system for recording entries of visitors.
Related to prescreening of passengers, the TSA has not yet fulfilled its congressional mandates, the GAO said.
"TSA has not yet met a congressional requirement that it take over responsibility for a passenger identity-matching process from domestic air carriers, in part to improve accuracy in the matching process and to end disclosure of sensitive information on possible terrorists to air carriers," the report said.
TSA has been developing a prescreening program called Secure Flight since 2004, but it was put on hold last year. The DHS privacy office concluded in December 2006 that the TSA committed significant privacy missteps in creating Secure Flight.
There are shortcomings in Customs' prescreening efforts as well. While the bureau conducts prescreening of passengers on international flights departing from or traveling to the United States, the planes are allowed to take off before the prescreenings are completed.
"Such flights therefore remain vulnerable to a terrorist takeover and other risks," the GAO said.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.