Business, Finance & Economics

Janet Napolitano sees an end to shoes-off screening at US airports

Janet Napolitano, the U.S. Homeland Security chief, says travelers may soon be able to keep their shoes on when they pass through airport security checkpoints.

Restriction on carry-on liquids, however — imposed after a terrorist plot to detonate disguised bombs on board planes was exposed in August 2006 — are likely to remain in place.

Napolitano, speaking Tuesday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., did not give a timeframe for the changes, with the AP quoting her as saying that the technology to scan shoe-wearing passengers for bombs did not yet exist.

Politico quotes Napolitano as saying:

"We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen. I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on. One of the last things you will [see] is the reduction or limitation on liquids."

However, she said, the AP reports:

"We'd love to have a kind of a screening portal that you just step in and, boom, it's got everything and you go through and it's painless and very, very quick. The technology isn't quite there yet and it won't be for a while, but I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on, and one of the last things you will probably see is a reduction or removing the limitation on liquids."

NBC News reports John Pistole, the Transportation Security Administration Administrator, as having echoed Napolitano's comments during a separate appearance Tuesday, indicating that improved screening technology would enable fliers to pass through checkpoints with their shoes and belts on.

The Associated Press, however, writes that:

"Pistole said that TSA will always perform random and unpredictable screening, so that passengers who aren't asked to remove their shoes might be asked to remove their shoes on the next trip."

"Just to keep her guessing," Pistole is quoted as saying by AP. "The last thing we want to do is allow terrorists to game the system."