Statement in response to TSA non-concurrence on a letter published by the Office of Special Counsel regarding TSA PreCheck® screening practices

Friday, July 29, 2022

TSA remains steadfast in its mission to protect the nation’s transportation systems and applies a risk-based and intelligence-driven security screening approach to appropriately screen millions of passengers daily. In 2013, TSA moved away from a one-size-fits-all security approach and allowed vetted TSA PreCheck® passengers into a modified security screening lane. This was later authorized by the TSA Modernization Act. 

TSA PreCheck passengers are confirmed at the Travel Document Checker (TDC) podium where technology verifies TSA PreCheck status and highly-trained Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) ensure that only TSA PreCheck passengers are directed to TSA PreCheck screening lanes. TSA continues to work diligently to ensure transportation security and the safety of the traveling public.

Since the agency’s formation, TSA has implemented a robust series of security procedures, developed a workforce well-trained in threat mitigation, and sought and implemented state-of-the-art technologies to screen passengers, baggage, and air cargo. The agency’s security measures are continually evaluated and enhanced by experts to address evolving threats while preserving individual rights and freedoms.  

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated whistleblower allegations filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) involving the screening performed in TSA PreCheck lanes. After a review of the allegations, DHS determined in 2019 that TSA’s actions did not constitute gross mismanagement or a substantial and specific danger to public safety. On July 22, 2022, OSC issued a notification that it found DHS’s determination did not appear reasonable.

TSA devotes more of its resources to standard screening lanes than to TSA PreCheck lanes. This approach is consistent with TSA’s core mission, its deployment of technology, multiple layers of security, and its risk-based and intelligence-driven security screening approach. TSA relies on intelligence to develop and implement its approach to security and works closely with transportation, law enforcement, and intelligence partners to set the international standard for excellence in transportation security.

Security measures for TSA PreCheck passengers begin long before they arrive at the airport. TSA PreCheck passengers provide comprehensive biographic and biometric information during enrollment, which enables us to do a very thorough, and recurrent, vetting for both terrorism and disqualifying criminal history. In addition, beginning 72 hours prior to travel, all TSA PreCheck travelers are also vetted through TSA’s Secure Flight, which enhances security by identifying low and high-risk passengers, as well as individuals on the No Fly List and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Do Not Board list, before they arrive at the airport. TSA’s Secure Flight system only permits airlines to issue boarding passes with TSA PreCheck markings to individuals in a Congressionally-authorized category. Secure Flight randomly excludes a small percentage of TSA PreCheck eligible travelers from receiving expedited screening as a way to test whether TSA PreCheck passenger screening is identifying passengers and carry-on items that pose a threat. Similarly, TSA randomly selects passengers for enhanced screening for the same reason.

No passenger receives a TSA PreCheck designation on their boarding pass unless they are in one of the categories authorized by Congress to receive access to TSA PreCheck lanes.

A passenger without a TSA PreCheck marking who tries to access a TSA PreCheck lane will be redirected to a standard screening lane. When the passenger’s boarding pass is scanned, based on the boarding pass barcode or electronic QR code, it will alert the Travel Document Checker that the passenger does not have a TSA PreCheck designation.