LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Transportation Security Administration’s decision to allow passengers to go through the pre-check screening line designed for those with approved security clearance, some say, is compromising safety.
To enter the pre-check program, passengers normally need to be fingerprinted, pass an extensive background check and pay $85.READ MORE: 2 Long Beach Grocery Stores Shutting Down Saturday Over Hero Pay Law
But CBS2’s David Goldstein found that the TSA is randomly selecting passengers who aren’t enrolled to reduce wait times.
“Yes, I was afraid. Maybe something else should be done about pre-check to secure it,” said Allen Bell, a Los Angeles resident.
Thousand Oaks resident Felicia Friedland was also chosen when she returned to LAX from New York.
“I actually thought about that. ‘Like, why me?’ They really don’t know me, but they did it for me anyway,” she said.
Since the program started last December, roughly 700,000 people have signed up for TSA’s pre-check, which has shorter lines.
Passengers in the pre-check program aren’t required to remove their shoes, belts and jackets and are permitted to leave laptops and liquids in carry-on bags before going through an X-ray machine.
But allowing anyone to pass through, according to Phil Little, creates a system ripe for terrorists.
“Particularly with Khorasan and some of these other groups with very sophisticated nondetectable explosives. We’re setting ourselves up for a disaster just like we did before 9/11,” said Little, a security expert.READ MORE: Armed Suspect Caught On Camera Robbing Group Of People In A West Hollywood Alley
CBS News’ Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, who is enrolled in the program, says the TSA’s move is counterproductive.
“It’s a mess and, in fact, for those of us who are frequent flyers, we think it’s little bit of a joke and it’s frustrating because the concept of pre-check is that you are a trusted traveler, you’ve been vetted, you’ve done the background check, and your reward for that is that you are supposed to go through a streaming, seamless line. It’s not,” Greenberg said.
TSA officials refused to comment on the safety concerns but do say they have multiple levels of security at many airports, including at LAX, where they make an assessment of all passengers before they reach the checkpoints.
In a statement, the TSA said: “Someone wishing to do harm to the transportation system cannot predict with any degree of certainty they’ll be randomly selected for expedited screening.”
“We can have a real problem on our hands,” said Congressman Adam Schiff, a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Schiff says TSA’s decision to allow other passengers into the pre-check line is unacceptable.
“Well, it certainly does get around the background check in a way that may put us at risk, and that’s something that I think we need to really delve into and decide whether this has to be done away with, this process of waving people into the pre-check line,” he said.
Schiff says he’s awaiting a report from Homeland Security before making any decisions.
For now, though, TSA continues to randomly select passengers into the pre-check line who have not previously been vetted.MORE NEWS: Motive Unknown After 8 Killed At Indianapolis FedEx Facility
Last year, the pre-screened benefits were extended to all members of the U.S. Armed Forces and, two weeks ago, to all students of the U.S. service academies.