Airlines this week will begin requiring some people making reservations for domestic flights to submit their dates of birth and genders as part of a screening process aimed at keeping boarding passes out of the hands of suspected terrorists, the Transportation Security Administration said.
The agency said the screening would all play out behind the scenes, meaning there should be no additional delays for passengers at airport terminals. The change will be phased in starting Saturday. Not all airlines are fully participating yet and might not request the data.
The TSA said it would be up to individual airlines or travel agents to decide how to collect the required information at the time a reservation is made. The program, called Secure Flight, is aimed at meeting congressional mandates, including those passed in 2007 to put into practice recommendations from the commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The government's goal is to vet all passengers on domestic commercial flights by early next year. The TSA said the additional data would make it easier for the agency to more accurately match prospective passengers with the thousands of names carried on the government's terrorism watch lists. The advanced-screening program is being phased in slowly. The first step came in May, when people making reservations were required to begin submitting their names exactly as they appear on government-issued identifications needed to board planes.
TSA officials have been criticized for refusing to allow passengers to board if their names were the same, or even similar, to those on the watch lists. Civil-liberties groups and privacy advocates have criticized the watch lists, saying they should be more narrowly focused on suspected terrorists. One government estimate put the number of names appearing on its lists at more than 700,000 two years ago.