Finally, some two sensible steps toward airplane security in the United States.
First: Building on its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) which started at Logan International Airport in Boston in 2003 and has since expanded to 160 airports, the Transportation Security Administration has launched a behavior-detection program, at Logan's Terminal A, with the option of expanding it after two months.
The old SPOT has TSA personnel screeners ask questions of passengers deemed suspicious; the new one targets everyone, with TSA staff asking passengers a few questions ("What's the purpose of your trip?") to detect suspicious behavior. As the Los Angeles Times report puts it, "passengers will be casually greeted by Transportation Security Administration officials. But the officers aren't there for a friendly 'hello' — they're trying to deter and detect passengers who pose a risk to aviation security."
Second: It's got a cumbersome bureaucratic name ("Expedited Screening Pilot Program") as well as a shortened name for public use: "TSA Pre√," (pronounced, one assumes, "t-s-a pre-check").
Starting with two airlines (Delta and American) at four airports (Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Miami), airline passengers in various "trusted traveler" programs (Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI) are elible for expedited screening through via designated screening lanes and for other future benefits, such as keeping on their shoes, jackets and belts, and leaving liquids and a computer inside a bag.
Comment: About time. I have been calling for questioning of passengers and a trusted traveler program for years. Maybe this will be a move in the direction away from TSA's insistence on security theater. (October 4, 2011)
Nov. 16, 2014 update: More potential good news from a new report published by the American Psychological Association arguing that security agents at airports are, in the paraphrase of the Los Angeles Times' Hugo Martin, "20 times more successful at spotting deception when they question passengers than when they simply look for physical clues." This in turn "supports a report by the Government Accountability Office last year that criticized airport screeners in the U.S. for relying primarily on 'nonverbal indicators' to spot potential security threats."