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Getting There: TSA boss touts PreCheck screening program

TSA Administrator John Pistole talks about risk-based security assessment and other policies at Spokane International Airport in February 2014. (Jesse Tinsley)
TSA Administrator John Pistole talks about risk-based security assessment and other policies at Spokane International Airport in February 2014. (Jesse Tinsley)

The head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration visited his officers at Spokane International Airport on Wednesday and used the occasion to promote the agency’s PreCheck program for passengers wanting to get through airport screening more quickly.

Administrator John S. Pistole said the TSA is moving away from what he called a “one-size-fits-all” approach to airport screening to more risk-based assessments.

The TSA is offering expedited screening to members of the military, airline crews, persons 75 or older, children under 12 and passengers who are enrolled in the “trusted traveler” or PreCheck programs.

The Spokane airport is one of 100 airports across the country that have now implemented the PreCheck program at security checkpoints.

“It’s a new paradigm. It’s a new way of approaching aviation security,” said Pistole, a former top FBI agent who has headed TSA since 2010.

He said screeners are now looking for more than explosives and weapons. They are also looking at passengers and assessing their reasons for flying as part of the screening process. “We call it ‘risk-based security,’ ” he said.

The change is allowing TSA to shorten screening lines at busy airports, he said.

But TSA also has implemented random and unpredictable screening measures beyond the security checkpoints.

The agency is checking passengers’ hands or bags at random to screen for the presence of chemicals used in explosives.

Those who are enrolled in PreCheck don’t have to remove their shoes, light jackets and belts when they pass through security. They can keep their toiletries and medicines stowed in their carry-on luggage, and their laptop computers can remain in a bag or case.

In recent months, some passengers have been selected for the PreCheck lane as a way of encouraging new enrollments.

The goal is to increase the number of known and trusted travelers, which will make airport screening more effective and efficient.

So far, PreCheck has 65,000 enrollees nationwide, Pistole said.

The cost of enrolling is $85, which is good for five years.

An application for PreCheck can be started online, but the traveler has to show up at a TSA enrollment center to provide fingerprints and proof of identity.

Participating airlines, including those flying through Spokane, are inviting frequent flyers to join PreCheck.

The Spokane airport has asked the TSA to open an enrollment center here. The nearest enrollment centers are in Pasco, Seattle and other Western Washington locations.

For more information, go to

Motorists under 35 text at the wheel

About half of Northwest drivers under 35 admitted to sending or reading text messages on their phones while driving, according to a new survey from Pemco Insurance.

Of those who admit to texting behind the wheel, about 75 percent of them said they do it while stopped.

About one in five of those same drivers said they will talk on a phone while driving.

Most of the talking drivers hold the phone away from their ears to conceal what they are doing, but others said they don’t try to hide it.

Area residents win free fuel

Three Spokane-area residents won $50 Tanks of Thanks gasoline gift cards from Cenex for helping in the community. The winners were selected from nominations submitted by people in the community.

The winners are Cheri Reed, Karen Krotzer and Gayle Yeager.

Reed has been running a reading incentive program in Pasadena Park, Krotzer just helps anyone who needs it and Yeager helps less fortunate folks with rides or a place to stay for a few nights, according to CHS Inc.

To submit a nomination, go to

Food truck rally to close Wall Street

A food truck rally Friday from noon to 8 p.m. will close Wall Street between Riverside and Main avenues.

Lane restrictions continue around the new convention center hotel construction site at Main and Washington Street. Bernard Street at that block is closed to southbound traffic.

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