The Worst Case For Restricting TSA Pre-Check. Ever.

TSA Pre-Check is one of the greatest things to happen to the US flying experience in years. For those of you not familiar with TSA Pre-Check, it allows select passengers to go through an expedited security screening whereby they don’t have to take off their shoes or light jackets, and don’t have to remove liquids or electronics from their bags. You know, it’s basically the security screening process minus the theater. 😉

Originally TSA Pre-Check was only open to those in the Trusted Traveler program, which includes those with Global Entry, NEXUS, etc. However, over time they began allowing others in the Pre-Check line as well. I sort of get it from their perspective — ultimately they can’t be pouring a lot of resources into a small percentage of passengers, so by opening it up it was more justifiable.

That really bothered me, not from a safety standpoint, but rather from an experience standpoint. At first the benefit of Pre-Check was twofold:

  • You didn’t have to take off your shoes, light jacket, or take out your electronics or liquids
  • Equally importantly, you were in line with other experienced travelers, which made the line move more quickly

But then when they started letting in random people that didn’t know “the drill,” which held up the line. They would take off their shoes and take out their laptops, which made the lines even longer.

So I was thrilled when the TSA announced in August that they would begin limiting Pre-Check eligibility. Not because I’d feel any safer on planes, but rather because it would make the process quicker.

However, CBS2 New York has one of the most sensationalist “investigative” pieces I’ve read about TSA Pre-Check. They seem to come to the same conclusion I do — that Pre-Check should be limited to “trusted travelers” — but for completely different reasons.

I mean, the whole article is so ridiculous that I don’t even know where to start. So how about at the beginning?

You expect that the person sitting next to you on a flight has been thoroughly screened like you have.

But that may not always be the case.

In a CBS2 exclusive investigation, Carolyn Gusoff found that the Transportation Security Administration knows all about this potential security threat.

“I didn’t have the screening that the others did, and walked right in,” traveler Eileen Gorkin said.

It’s hard to believe, in post-9/11 New York, that travelers could get on an airplane without the security rituals that many have come to trust, Gusoff reported.

Right, you “walked right in?” And by “walked right in” you mean that you still underwent the same screening every other passenger did, minus the “theater” aspect of it? But I guess they do address that, because they mention that travelers can get on the plane without the “security rituals that many have come to trust.” I suppose that’s true, some people do feel safer after having to put their shoes and cologne in a bin.

“I didn’t have to take my shoes off. I didn’t have to take my laptop out,” one man said.

No way!!! You mean kinda like how it works in the rest of the world?

Gomez too has been ushered through reduced security, and said the practice could give the wrong people bad ideas.

“Then terrorists could simply keep probing our security and say, ‘OK, statistically speaking, I will eventually get on the pre-check line, and I could then board with whatever explosive that I choose,” he explained.

Really, this is the feedback a former FBI agent has? That a terrorist looking to board a plane with an explosive would come to the conclusion that if they can access the Pre-Check line they can “board with whatever explosive” they choose?




  1. It’s a mess. Anyway you slice it.

    Yesterday at DFW, there were two lines at the checkpoint I used. One for Pre, one not. But one of the machines wasn’t working, so after they checked IDs, everyone went into a single line for xray and baggage scanning.

    A few people without Pre figured out they could leave their shoes on and their laptops in their bags. Because there was no one checking who had Pre and who didn’t.

    It wasn’t a giant cluster because it was midday and not very crowded.

    But there were in fact people who weren’t “trusted” who got through using Pre rules.

    Unsafe? Dunno.

    Annoying? Yep.

  2. “Then terrorists could simply keep probing our security and say, ‘OK, statistically speaking, I will eventually get on the pre-check line, and I could then board with whatever explosive that I choose,” he explained.”

    How many terrorists would you have to attempt (and fail) to get pre-check before “statistics” kicked in? And what does the terrorist do with his chosen explosive if he shows up at the airport and they don’t direct him to the pre-check line? Turn around and leave? Think anyone might notice that if it happened a couple dozen times?

  3. Security (or lack thereof) should be the same for everyone. I hate the TSA, I hate the way they operate but there should be a single system. The Government should not define Second Class citizens.

    One shouldn’t have to pay a specific fee to be less inconvenienced by the Government. It defies every concept of equality that is left in this country.

    What about a fee in order to get a light IRS audit then?

  4. Ben,

    Your position here is really elitist and indefensible. You get mad that people buy into the theater aspect of standard screening, but you also want to continue maintaining that charade (which would encourage the misconception) because… one time you had to stand behind a guy who took his shoes off?

    Also, the conclusion that the people doing this in the precheck lane are inexperienced is off-base. If they were inexperienced travelers, they wouldn’t be assuming that they need to remove shoes and laptops etc. They’re just not experienced in precheck specifically. And for that transgression, you want to keep them inexperienced forever and look down your nose at them?

    Pretty terrible all around, Ben.

  5. @ Chuck — To clarify, I’d like security to go back to Pre-Check style security for EVERYONE. But as long as they’re not doing that, I’d rather people at least know what to expect, as it keeps things moving.

  6. Yet you were “thrilled when the TSA announced in August that they would begin limiting Pre-Check eligibility. Not because I’d feel any safer on planes, but rather because it would make the process quicker.”

    You recognize that the standard screening is useless but you want more people subjected to it for your personal gain.

  7. But the more people allowed into the Pre lines, the more people not getting the theatrical BS. I’d like to think they’d just keep expanding it and phase out the nudoscope, pat down, shoes, liquids, etc, without making any announcements about it. Just a quiet return to normal.

  8. @ Chuck — No. I wish they’d announce that everyone can go through that screening, so it becomes the norm. But in the meantime, no one wins by randomly sending people to that line.

  9. I paid for global entry mostly to avoid the nonsense in the regular security lines. For the last year and a half pre-check has been a complete joke everywhere I go with the inexperienced travelers being let in and holding up the line. I’m back to getting to the airport 2 hours early for domestic flights because I never know how bad the lines are going to be. I hope they revert back to the early pre-check days where you could get through in a minute or two. That’s what I paid for.

  10. It was part of the big government budget agreement law that TSA needs to provide expedited screening to 50 pct of people by the end of this year. That’s why they had to open it up. They can start saying they will dial it back but not until it crosses 50 pct then they have to keep it there. Sorry. Government sucks.

  11. Lucky,
    I’m shocked that you’re just noticing this!
    They have been letting random people in the pre check line for around a year.
    I think I even wrote to you about it months ago.
    It is beyond frustrating to get in the pre check line with a bunch of people that clearly have not been pre checked. Or when the lines merge and the TSA agents have that glazed look in their eyes when you say, “what are they doing in the pre check lane”?
    Please keep up the vigilance on this matter as it really is dangerous. If you don’t need to take off you shoes or jacket because you’ve been pre checked. Then you DO absolutely need to take OFF your shoes and jacket if you have not been pre checked.

  12. I think it’s a bit of a stretch there Lucky, averaging 3 hrs a day in the air, maybe on your best year it was 400,000 miles / I’ve flown 110 flights this year and there’s a 1/4 left to the year. Nice try 🙂

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