Mineta Pledges to Improve Airport Screening

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta Tuesday acknowledged there has been an "unacceptable" level of problems at airport security checkpoints, but promised that government agents would do a better job of properly screening passengers and luggage.

Mineta said agents with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other Transportation department agencies would inspect the screening process, and the FAA would look to hire more agents.

"An unacceptable level of deficiencies continue to occur," he said. "I want confidence restored in the screening system. When people fail to meet the standards, there's going to be a stink."

Mineta warned that Americans would face more flight delays or passengers may need to be rechecked if agents find screeners have been using improper procedures.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Department is considering a way to help airline passengers bypass long lines at security checkpoints. All they'd need is a "smart card," a high-tech ID card, which would be issued after passengers submit to a voluntary background check.

The cards supposedly would be tamper-proof, using fingerprints or a retinal scan to verify a passenger's identity. Passengers would simply show their smart cards at the screening area, and after minimal screening, those card-carrying passengers would proceed to the departure lounge.

Security guards would instead concentrate on other passengers who have not been "pre-screened." Wire reports said the Air Transport Association, a trade group for the major airlines, has endorsed the concept of smart cards.

CNSNews.com Morning Editor Susan Jones contributed to this report.