March 18, 2009
WASHINGTON — A new, more aggressive effort by airport screeners aims to halt randomly selected passengers for a security check just before they step onto their departing plane, according to a government memo obtained by USA TODAY.
[efoods]Scores of passengers have already been pulled aside for searches as they waited in line at airport gates for boarding calls. Each of the passengers had already passed through security checkpoints when a uniformed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer asked them to step out of line to check their IDs or search their carry-on bags.
Passengers can be selected at random or for suspicious behavior, according to a TSA memo dated last Thursday. The program primarily targets riskier flights, according to the memo, which doesn’t specify how flights are singled out.
The TSA says it has done occasional checks of passengers at airport gates and that the new stepped-up effort has nothing to do with any particular threat. Rather, the effort is focused on the notion that mixing up tactics makes it harder for terrorists to monitor how security works, said TSA spokesman Greg Soule.
“It serves as a random, unpredictable layer,” Soule said.