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TSA Investigates Clear Program Following Incident Involving Passenger Carrying Ammunition

Traveler verification program Clear allowed a passenger traveling with ammunition to breeze through its security screening last year, according to a Bloomberg report.

The passenger was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration and later found to also be traveling under a false identity, according to the report, which suggests the private security company flubbed its screening process.

Similar to the TSA’s PreCheck program, Clear Secure provides passengers a service aimed at speeding up the pre-flight screening process so that they can spend less time waiting in line before flights. Clear verifies passengers at roughly 50 airports across the U.S. using their fingerprints and iris scans, letting them skip having their identity cards scanned by TSA. Travelers enrolled in the program must still remove their coats and shoes when going through security.

Photos of passengers’ chins

The Bloomberg report alleges that the facial-recognition system upon which Clear relied to enroll new members was not secure, citing people familiar with a TSA investigation into the company. The program registered prospective passengers based on photos that sometimes only showed people’s chins, the tops of their heads or their shoulders, Bloomberg reported.

The system also depended on employees not making any mistakes, according to the report.

When its facial recognition system flagged customers, Clear employees were tasked with manually verifying their identities.

The screening company did acknowledge a July 2022 incident that the company blamed on “a single human error” in a statement on its website Friday. The incident had nothing to do with the company’s technology, Clear added.

“We took immediate action to end the practice that led to the human error and took corrective action to fully re-enroll the miniscule percentage of our customers enrolled under this process,” Clear said in the statement.

In June, the TSA demanded that Clear customers have their identities verified by its own agents. That requirement has not gone into effect, according to Bloomberg.

Clear also disputed the accuracy of Bloomberg’s reporting in its Friday statement, saying, “Bloomberg published a story that inaccurately characterizes Clear’s robust security and our work with the TSA in keeping airports safe.”

Clear did not immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.

Millions of passengers screened

Clear touted its track record of TSA verifying 4.7 Clear passenger IDs in the past six months without issue. In its 13 years of operation, Clear has verified 130 million passengers. It currently has more than 16 million members.

In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, TSA said it is working with the company to ensure that it complies with its security requirements for passenger screening processes.

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