By Laura McCandlish
2:38 PM EDT, April 28, 2008
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today unveiled a new checkpoint screening system being tested at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and announced other measures to make the process of providing identification at check-in less hectic for travelers.
The $2.1 million pilot at BWI, called "Checkpoint Evolution," includes enhanced X-ray machines to better scan carry-ons and whole-body imaging machines that show potentially hazardous objects that may be concealed under a passenger's clothing. The checkpoint makeover also includes more than $300,000 in aesthetic improvements – soft lighting, calming music, better signage and an automatic bin return system – to create order to allow Transportation Security Administration officers to better detect jittery perpetrators trying to pass through the line.
"Everyone who's been through a checkpoint knows it's not a relaxing experience," Chertoff said, showing off the new system at BWI. "It's a dramatic improvement in the experience. It's a dramatic improvement for the screening officers."
To prepare for the pilot, TSA officers have completed a 16-hour training course on explosives detection and how to calmly engage passengers that all 43,000 screeners across the country will soon undergo. Most travelers passing through Southwest Airlines' Terminal B checkpoint at BWI will experience the new system, which was set up Friday.
Chertoff also announced a new policy to help innocent travelers remove themselves from the TSA's terrorist watch list. Each airline will create a new system to verify and confidentially store a passenger's date of birth to clear up any watch list misidentification, he said. Previously inconvenienced customers will then be able to check in online or at airline kiosks, something those on the watch list are now barred from doing.
"It will reverse 100 percent of the false positives in the past, which has been a major hassle," Chertoff said.