ALEXANDRIA, VA. -- Minutes after the Senate passed intelligence reform legislation on Dec. 2, the National Business Travel Association provided its members with an outline of the major travel-related provisions of the bill.
NBTA conducted an initial analysis of the bill, determining that it lays the groundwork for important progress in areas of travel security and passenger security. However, NBTA cautioned that some sections of the bill raise concerns about how its requirements will be funded and whether the travel industry is being appropriately consulted in the design and implementation of security programs.
“One of the passenger prescreening changes required by this bill is right out of the NBTA playbook,” said NBTA President Carol A. Devine. “The legislation requires that the Transportation Security Administration establish a ‘timely and fair process’ for passengers to appeal erroneous information used in passenger prescreening, such as incorrect placement on the no-fly list or watch list. This is a chorus we have been singing for some time, and we would only add that ‘timely’ for most passengers means ‘immediate.’ ”
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires the TSA to assume responsibility for prescreening comparisons of passenger lists to government watch lists, and will be required to take several important steps to meet operational and privacy concerns with prescreening. The law also requires TSA to compile a report on the privacy and civil liberties implications of the automatic selectee and no-fly lists, as well as requiring the Director of National Intelligence to report on the Terrorist Screening Center consolidated screening watch list.
The bill includes a modified version of a provision, often referred to as the “Porter Amendment,” that NBTA has supported. The final language gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Special Assistant for the Private Sector specific responsibility to work on issues related to travel and tourism, ensuring that a senior DHS official is focused on the travel industry.
One provision of the bill requires airlines to supply TSA with passenger information needed to begin implementing advanced passenger prescreening and also provide systems and services to air carriers in the operation of air carrier reservations systems to provide to the carriers passenger information in order for airlines to comply with the requirement.
Devine expressed concern about these requirements: “It is imperative that NBTA and other industry representatives be involved in determining what passenger data can and should be used for these purposes. As travel professionals, we understand what data elements are used in these systems so we can help TSA establish the appropriate procedures and data requirements. We would be pleased to work with the Homeland Security Special Assistant for the Private Sector on this issue, as one of the first projects undertaken since travel was singled out by Congress as an important area of responsibility.”
The bill requires several additional measures aimed at improving national security by strengthening travel security, including: development of new explosive detection equipment for screening checkpoints; testing of new passenger screening systems; studying screener job performance; expedited deployment of in-line baggage screening equipment; and replacement of trace-detection equipment with explosive detection system equipment.
Because measures in the law are designed to protect U.S. citizens from danger of terrorist attacks using our aviation system, NBTA urges that the cost of the programs not fall squarely on the shoulders of travelers and travel providers, but instead be paid for out of general funds.
“Travel security is national security, and it should be funded accordingly,” said Devine.
The bill also establishes a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board within the Executive Office of the President to "continually review ... regulations, executive branch policies, and procedures … to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected.” Additionally, the measure specifies that the DHS Privacy Officer shall report directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security.
“We hope that the creation of an Executive Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, paired with the DHS Privacy Officer reporting directly to the Secretary, will establish a better environment for addressing NBTA’s travel security privacy concerns at the highest levels,” Devine said. “The ideal next step would be to create a national advisory board on travel and tourism issues that would enable these and other government offices to consult with industry experts to ensure that policies and regulations that impact travel help bolster this important segment of the economy. NBTA would be pleased to bring the corporate travel perspective to such a board.”
The bill also extends through November 19, 2005, a law requiring airlines to honor tickets issued by a carrier that has ceased operations. Under the rule, if an airline “suspends, interrupts, or discontinues air passenger service on [a] route by reason of insolvency or bankruptcy,” a carrier servicing that route is required to provide transportation on a space-available basis for a maximum $50 roundtrip administration fee. Passengers have 60 days from the ticketing airline’s cessation of operations to make arrangements with another carrier.
If signed by the President, The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 will become law.