End in Sight for No-Shoes Airport Security Policy

by  James Noonan | Sep 8, 2011
TSA security checkpoint
TSA security checkpoint / PhonlamaiPhoto/iStock

The days of air travelers having to take off their shoes during security screenings are numbered, according to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen,” she said at a recent forum in Washington, according to Bloomberg. The announcement comes 10 years after the 9/11 attacks that redefined air travel and security, domestically and abroad.

Better technology is the key to eradicating the policy on shoe checks, which stems from the 2001 attempt by Richard Reid to ignite explosives hidden in his shoes while on a flight from Paris to Miami. The Transportation Security Administration’s goal, according to an October 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office, was to have shoe scanners deployed at airports by 2015. These would only require passengers to step on a black mat to have their shoes scanned. No decision has been made on the technology.

Although she didn’t elaborate on specifics, Napolitano said the policy would be eradicated shortly, as would, eventually, the rules for carrying liquids. The restrictions on the amount of liquids passengers can bring on a plane, introduced in 2006, are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, however, as technology hasn’t progressed to differentiate between explosives and harmless liquids.

While her department remains vigilant in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Napolitano maintained that another attack is highly unlikely, and that there are no “pending” threats to the U.S.

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