TSA reviewing proposal to eliminate passenger screenings at small airports: report

TSA reviewing proposal to eliminate passenger screenings at small airports: report
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The Transportation Security Administration  (TSA) is considering cutting screenings at more than 150 airports across the country, CNN reported Wednesday.

The network, citing senior agency officials and internal documents, reported that the reductions would apply to airports that serve planes with 60 seats or fewer. 

If implemented, passengers and luggage arriving from smaller airports would be screened when they arrive at major connecting hubs, because those facilities have the resources to conduct more advanced security sweeps. 

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The proposal would reportedly save roughly $115 million a year and would affect about 0.5 percent of the people who fly out of U.S. airports on any given day, CNN reported.

Unnamed top TSA officials voiced serious concerns to CNN about the proposal having negative effects on national security.

Michael Bilello, a spokesman for TSA, did not deny the proposal existed, but told The Hill that there has been "no decision to eliminate passenger screening at any federalized U.S. airport."

He added that the agency reviews the screening process on an annual basis.

"Any potential operational changes to better allocate limited taxpayer resources are simply part of pre-decisional discussions and deliberations and would not take place without a risk assessment to ensure the security of the aviation system." Bilello said.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske, who was confirmed last August, told The Hill in July that he hopes to implement new technology during his tenure to speed up the screening process at airports.

News that TSA could reconsider its screening process at smaller airports comes on the heels of reports that revealed the agency's "Quiet Skies" program, investigated by The Boston Globe, through which undercover federal air marshals have monitored some every-day passengers' behavior for years.

Lawmakers and privacy experts have expressed specific concerns about the Quiet Skies program, saying it could cross a line if it's too selective in who it targets.

TSA officials have disputed that race or religion is a factor in who is selected for the program.

Bilello told The Hill on Monday that Quiet Skies is managed, in part, by "legal experts, privacy experts and civil liberties experts."

The program is aimed at a small percentage of travelers who display “travel patterns that will initially flag them as somebody that should receive further analysis,” Bilello said.

Updated at 6:17 p.m.