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.
How does the selectee get selectedGiven that neither the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) nor the airline publish the criteria used, it may never be possible to precisely identify the actual criteria in use. The system works by selecting passengers who meet certain criteria at the time their boarding pass is issued. Some criteria that may be used to select individuals are:
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.
A 2003 US DOI Newsletter suggests the appearance of SSSS on boarding passes may follow random selection.
Procedure when selectedPassengers 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 CredibilitySince 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 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. This supports the impression that SSSS is not an actual security measure but another move to harass passengers and keep the public in a state of constant alert for political reasons.
- ACLU of Washington: What is the "Selectee List"?
- EPIC: Documents Show Errors in TSA's "No Fly" and "Selectee" Watch Lists
- DHS to Launch Traveler Redress Inquiry Program
Accounts of passengers
selectee in German: Secondary Security Screening Selection