Travel Safety & Security Update October 2005.


Visa Waiver Program countries must issue new passports with digital photographs to allow their citizens to gain access to the US. Visitors with valid machine-readable passports issued prior to October 26 may travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. However passports issued on or after that date must have the digital photo. Visitors which arrive with a new passport without a digital photo will need a visa for entry. Oct 31, 2005

Bush to outline super-flu plan. An announcement is expected this week on how the Bush administration plans to fight the next super-flu. The plans are expected to include additional efforts to spot infections early in both the U.S. and abroad and recommendations on how to isolate the sick and distribute vaccines. Oct 30, 2005

White House misses many security deadlines. The White House has missed many deadlines for developing ways to protect the nation's transportation systems from terrorists. For example, a study on the cost of giving counterterrorism training to federal law enforcement officers flying commercially was due three years ago, and rules to protect air cargo from terrorist infiltration are two months late. Some observers say Congress demanded too many reports and plans from the Department of Homeland Security, which has been working to integrate 22 agencies. Oct 30, 2005

Terrorism insurance law is effective. A RAND Corp. report found the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act is a good way to share the financial risk from terrorism. Unless lawmakers extend it, the act will expire at the end of the year. Uninsured businesses should be encouraged to buy the insurance, the report also found. Under the act, federal subsidies to insurance companies are triggered if TRIA-covered insured losses are more than $15 billion. Oct 30, 2005

Travelers urge TSA to improve customer service. Some travelers think the Transportation Security Administration should make improving customer service a top priority, The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney writes. Some travelers say possessions have been stolen from their bags by security screeners. Others fliers noted the "trusted traveler" program did not shorten the time they spent at security checkpoints. Oct 28, 2005

Displaced TSA screeners assured jobs for six months. A Transportation Security Administration program allows airport screeners displaced by Hurricane Katrina to report for duty at any U.S. airport and be guaranteed a job for six months. The program, dubbed "Safe Haven," has been in place for several years. With 21 screeners, Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport has the largest number of former New Orleans workers. Oct 27, 2005

Carriers' financial woes create re-regulation debate. The airlines industry's prolonged financial troubles have prompted talk of reestablishing federal regulation, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Bill Virgin. Airlines were deregulated 27 years ago, but the government still regulates safety and provides limited subsidies to small carriers. Virgin writes that deregulation democratized air travel, kept fares low and allowed more consumers to travel. Oct 26, 2005

Homeland security officials talk with N.Y. lawmakers about passport rule. New York lawmakers recently met with a Department of Homeland Security official to discuss passport requirements for travelers crossing the Canadian border. Homeland Security rules require all travelers to have a passport, but it is considering changing the requirement. The New York lawmakers oppose the passport requirement, saying the New York-Canada border has had a free flow of travelers for years. Oct 26, 2005

TSA studies overhaul of security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration is working to make airport security checkpoints more effective, The Wall Street Journal's Scott McCartney writes. Experts say current screening points are poorly designed and not entirely effective. The TSA wants a more "risk based" system, which would target threats instead of treating all travelers alike. It is also working on a trusted traveler program that would allow fliers who pass a background check to speed through security lines. Oct 25, 2005

Airport officials mull Registered Traveler program. Officials at 56 airports in the U.S. are considering the Registered Traveler program, and some say the program could appear in airports as early as next year. Travelers who agree to extensive background checks, finger printing and eye scans are allowed to move to the front of airport screening lines. The Transportation Security Administration is analyzing the results of a test program that attracted 10,000 participants. Oct 24, 2005

Audit finds technology company overbilled on TSA contract. A federal audit claims technology company Unisys overbilled the government on a contract to improve the transportation security system, according to The Washington Post. The company's contract to build a computer network linking airport employees to the Transportation Security Administration's security centers is costing more than double the expected amount per month. The contract is now under review for possible violations of the False Claims Act. Unisys Managing Partner of Homeland Security Tom Conaway said "there certainly was no attempt here to commit any type of misdeed in any form." Oct 24, 2005

Airport officials mull Registered Traveler program. Officials at 56 airports in the U.S. are considering the Registered Traveler program, and some say the program...

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