Now that the fury has quieted over those touchy-feely pat-downs and body scans, it's time to turn up the volume on how to truly reform airport security.
The U.S. Travel Association, the tourism industry's key Washington lobbying group, did just that this week with a report that outlined some big fixes for a broken system:
Stop treating every passenger as a potential terrorist and allow people to voluntarily submit to a rigorous vetting that would gain them certain benefits, like keeping their shoes on or laptops in their bags at the checkpoint.
Require airlines to stop charging separate fees for checked luggage, which encourages people to carry more bags through the checkpoint and slows the process.
And make administrative changes within the Transportation Security Administration, such as taking the politics out of the office by making the chief of TSA a five-year position hired by security experts rather than a presidential appointment.
Those ideas make good sense.
But they won't work without an overarching change in Congress' view on airport security.
It can't be about patting down nearly every person who comes through the line. Instead, the focus needs to be on the real risks.
"Some in Congress appear to have calculated that there are no political consequences to an inefficient and costly system, but great political consequences to a successful terrorist attack," the report says. "This is a classic Hobson's choice that the American traveling public repudiates."
Or as Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the travel association, puts it: "We need to stop pretending we can stop all risk associated with air travel."
The association, which includes Disney, SeaWorld and Universal, is not aiming to go soft on security.
The panel that wrote the report was led by security experts Tom Ridge, former secretary of homeland security; and Jim Turner, the former Texas congressman who served on the House Homeland Security Committee.
And there is hardly an industry that would suffer more than tourism if another terrorist attack shut down airports and panicked tourists canceled their travel plans.
This group has plenty of motives to ensure that their customers arrive safely and aren't turned off by the process. A trusted traveler program would help accomplish that.
An earlier form of this program piloted in Orlando and known as Clear failed because TSA refused to allow passengers who had been screened and given over fingerprints and iris scans to receive any security benefits — such as keeping their shoes and suit coats on. That meant it amounted to little more than a fast-pass for the checkpoint line.
The proposal calls for a new program to be run by the government and for passengers to voluntarily provide personal information, undergo a background check and an interview. Those accepted into the program would still be scanned for explosives, but they wouldn't be required to go through certain other procedures such as removing their shoes.
There are signs that TSA is starting to come around to the idea.
TSA Administrator John Pistole has recently said he's willing to look at such a program. And one of TSA's toughest critics in Congress, Rep. John Mica, also supports the change.
Mica said he believes Congress is becoming more open to risk-based screening rather than screening every passenger the same way. "I think that's right around the corner," the Winter Park Republican said.
Let's hope so.
The outcry over the controversial pat-downs has calmed. But the need to reform the system is still urgent.
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