Aviation security is constantly evolving, as authorities respond to new threats, new technologies, and new political realities. "Americans prefer their security to be non-intrusive," says Brian Jenkins, an analyst at the Rand Corp. "We are exquisitely sensitive to anything that affects, or is seen to affect, our civil liberties." Here's a sampling of what's in the works:
CAPPS II (Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System)
The Plan: This new screening system will go beyond its progenitor, CAPPS I, which relies primarily on information that passengers provide to airline reservationists, such as destination and method of payment. CAPPS II, scheduled to be phased in starting next summer, will synthesize data from an undisclosed number of government and private databases, such as U.S. Customs, the National Criminal Information Center, and the Interstate Identification Index.
The Rub: Possible civil-liberties litigation.
ANTI-MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEMS
The Plan: Congress has appropriated $100 million for R&D to explore technologies that would work best on commercial aircraft.
The Rub: Cost-benefit-analysis questions concerning reliability and practicality. For instance, the more reliable the system, the more maintenance it might require. High maintenance needs could cause delays.
TWIC (Transportation Worker Identity Credential)
The Plan: A biometric ID card for all transportation workers, coordinated with those for international transportation workers, was being tested this fall, using six biometrics, including fingerprints and facial recognition. The idea is to make airports less porous to unauthorized individuals.
The Rub: None at this juncture.
NEXT-GENERATION IMAGING DEVICES
The Plan: Improvements to existing technologies are the rule: Computerized X-ray machines that use multiple planes and give more-defined images. Walk-through magnetometers that also include air-jet trace-detectors, which will "sniff" for explosives as well as detect weapons and other contraband. Full-body scanners that use either X-ray or CAT scan technology. And that's just passenger screening.
The Rub: Reliability and privacy issues.