Automatic Selectee

Secondary Security Screening Selection

Secondary Security Screening Selection or Secondary Security Screening Selectee, known by its acronym SSSS, is an airport security measure in the United States which selects passengers for additional inspection. This may also be known as Selectee, Automatic Selectee or the Selectee list.

Selection criteria

Neither the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nor the airlines publish the criteria that are used when boarding passes are issued to identify passengers who will be given extra screening or be denied boarding.

Some criteria are:

  • Passengers with a one-way reservation.
  • Passengers who pay cash for their tickets.
  • Random selection, according to TSA spokeswoman Amy Von Walter in 2004, and as suggested by a 2003 DOI newsletter.

Since neither the TSA nor the airline run a background check at the time boarding passes are issued, immigration status and criminal records are not taken into consideration during SSSS. Furthermore, personal information such as a passenger's addresses, employment history, and medical records are not taken into account during SSSS and may not even be readily available to government officials to modify the process and increase its validity.

Procedure when selected

Passengers that have been selected for this secondary screening will have the letters SSSS or *S* (all capitals) printed on their boarding passes. In the case of Southwest Airlines, secondary screening selectees will have a "checkerboard" pattern printed on their boarding passes.

SSSS passengers will go through a more intensive screening process which may include puffer explosive detectors. Their carry-on luggage may be also be inspected by hand. In the case of film or other items that cannot be X-rayed, the agent may perform a test for possible explosive materials. The screener may also use a hand held metal detector to search the passenger for metal objects.

Randomness and Credibility

Since the process acts on the accumulation of certain criteria rather than mathematical probability, it is expected that subjects may be selected more than once or more often than others. This has caused the public to believe the process is not random but instead discriminatory. In reality, it is a selective process in which candidates who fall under a pre-determined category are chosen. Nonetheless, the process may rely, intermittently, in randomness, when subjects do not fall under any category and this becomes the mathematical variable.

The efficiency of SSSS is highly questionable, since at least with British Airways and Alaska Airlines the marking happens as mentioned at check-in. Thus a potential miscreant is warned and has the opportunity to leave the public area of the airport or abandon an attempt to smuggle something on board, while other passengers will be continue to be screened.

See also


External links

Accounts of passengers

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