Today, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued its final rule on the Secure Flight Program. With the creation of TSA following the events of 9/11, and in accordance with the Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, Congress has directed TSA to assume the function of pre-screening domestic air passenger information against the government's terrorist watch list. Four years and over $200 million later, TSA appears poised to assume this responsibility through a phased-in implementation to start in early 2009.
Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) issued the following statement regarding TSA's Secure Flight final rule:
"The American public has waited too long, hoping that TSA would finally step up and streamline the watchlist process so that innocent Americans are no longer misidentified as terrorist threats. While the issuance of the final rule represents some progress, I am disappointed that the full implementation of Secure Flight may not occur for several months, potentially years. This Committee will continue to monitor implementation plans to ensure that it is workable, reliable, and upholds the privacy rights of the flying public. "
Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Chairwoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) added the following:
"The partnership that we have forged with TSA, the air carriers, GAO, and other stakeholders appears to have yielded some progress. We will continue to engage in aggressive oversight to make sure that Secure Flight complies with congressional intent. Given that Congress has provided TSA with the resources to make Secure Flight work, I am troubled that TSA cannot provide assurances to Congress and the flying public that Secure Flight will be fully operational in the near term."