TSA, homeland security move to make shoe screening policy consistent for travelers

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National Press Release
Thursday, July 10, 2003

WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has clarified its policy on screening shoes for its security work force in an effort to ensure consistency at all airports across the nation, Adm. James M. Loy, TSA Administrator, said today.

TSA's increased focus on screening shoes in recent months reflects a necessary reaction to information gathered by federal intelligence agencies. But just as TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, achieved consistency last fall by clarifying procedures for the screening of drinks carried through security checkpoints, the agency is moving now to make sure its shoe policy is implemented consistently from coast to coast.

"Our screeners have always worked hard to make sure a 'shoe bomb' does not get on an aircraft," Adm. Loy said. "Now we must make sure our security process is consistent so air travelers know what to expect at every airport in the country."

Screeners have been given explicit guidance on which shoes require X-ray screening. Loy said screeners are being instructed to encourage passengers to remove their shoes and submit them for X-ray examination. Passengers will not be required to take off their shoes before going through metal detectors, but should understand that their chances of being selected for a more thorough, secondary screening will be lower if they do. In most airports, TSA has found checkpoint lines move faster if people remove their shoes for screening.

While many people do not know if their shoes contain metal, Loy repeated that particularly thick-soled shoes and those with metal shanks or steel toes join other apparel, such as heavy metal jewelry and belts, that require secondary screening.

He stressed that it is an imperative that TSA be agile enough to react to information gathered by federal intelligence agencies. Such information can often guide the adjustments made to the screening process.

"TSA has always been alert to the danger of a 'shoe bomb' attack. It has been noted that al Qaeda has trained people to make and use shoe bombs, as highlighted by the Richard Reid incident in December 2001," Admiral Loy said. "These are threats that the flying public can only understand and appreciate when they receive clear advice - advice that most often is delivered through the actual airport experience."