Hence the new program called Managed Inclusion, which uses canines and behavioral detection as a method to pre-screen passengers. The program has been in effect on a limited basis at Tampa International Airport (TIA) since November (the only other airport where the program is being used is in Indianapolis).
The system is only used at Airside E at TIA, so passengers would have to fly Delta, Air Canada or Sun County to be eligible for a screening that doesn't require discarding shoes, belts and everything else at the security checkpoint.
Managed Inclusion works like this: Immediately after a passenger exits the tram at Airside E, special trained dogs tethered to a TSA agent immediately sniff those passengers as they walk to the screening area. Then, Behavior Detection Officers do an immediate going over of every passenger, informing those that appear eligible to step into a separate line.
Finally, when the passengers who have been cleared by the dogs and the special officers arrive at the ticket checker, they will be asked to stand on a random screening generator, in order to "throw off any possibilities of someone gaming the system," said Gary Milano, Federal Security Director with the TSA.
Milano added that those passengers are then "randomly" directed back into the regular line or to the specially designated, less obtrusive line.
About those Behavior Detection Officers. What are they looking for?
Milano said they're searching for "behavioral indicators," and as long as those indicators aren't "sufficient to rise to a certain threshold, which would warrant a resolution process, we consider that particular passenger clear for Managed Inclusion." He would not reveal what any of those characteristics are.
Managed Inclusion is not the first pre-screening initiative TSA has employed in recent years as a way to make passengers' travel experience easier.
Throughout the past year, most major airports in the U.S. have been using what's called TSA Pre Check. That allows for certain passengers to get enrolled in an airline's system (in Tampa it's only used with Delta), and go through an expedited screening process. Or passengers can sign up with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs. Once qualified, passengers don't have to remove outer jackets, shoes, etc. when boarding. However they still must have their carry-on bags screened.
The TSA was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 airplane terrorist attacks, and has been under relentless criticism almost since its inception. Last summer, current TSA head John Pistole was blasted by Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers — chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security — who said that the "progress at TSA has come at a snail's pace and in some ways has gone backwards," adding "the American people need to see immediate changes that impact them."
"The future is to stop treating everybody in a one-sized fits all manner," said Milano. He said there are low-risk passengers (young children, senior adults), high-risk (presumed terrorists, of which he said are less than 1 percent of the population), and everyone else.
He said initiatives like Managed Inclusion create enhanced security, because getting the vast majority of passengers through expedited screening means that TSA agents can focus on those who might want to create harm, while everyone else can avoid taking off their shoes and belts.