Journal of Transportation Security

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 1–34 | Cite as

Assessing the security benefits of a trusted traveler program in the presence of attempted attacker exploitation and compromise

  • Brian A. Jackson
  • Edward W. Chan
  • Tom LaTourrette


Current aviation security procedures screen all passengers uniformly. Varying the amount of screening individuals receive based on an assessment of their relative risk has the potential to reduce the security burdens on some travelers, while improving security overall. In this paper we examine the security costs and benefits of a trusted traveler program, in which individuals who have been identified as posting less risk than others are allowed to pass through security with reduced security screening. This allows security resources to be shifted from travelers who have been identified as low risk, to the remaining unknown-risk population. However, fears that terrorists may exploit trusted traveler programs have dissuaded adoption of such programs. Our analysis estimates the security performance of a trusted traveler program in the presence of attacker attempts to compromise it. We found that, although these attempts would reduce the maximum potential security benefits of a program, they would not eliminate those benefits in all circumstances.


Aviation security Adversary behavior Policy robustness Program design Trusted traveler Registered traveler 



We gratefully acknowledge the individuals who provided data on the frequent flyer population of a major U.S. airline, which allowed us to estimate the number of individuals that would need to be trusted travelers in order to cover different percentages of the annual traveling population. Due to agreements involved in our access to that data, we cannot identify these individuals or the airline by name, but that does not reduce our gratitude. We also acknowledge individuals involved in government aviation security for the input they provided during the research process. Again, although we do not identify them individually, we recognize the assistance they provided. Within RAND, we acknowledge the advice and assistance provided by Jack Riley, Andrew Morral, Eric Peltz, and Erin-Elizabeth Johnson during the analysis and writing processes. We also acknowledge Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation for assistance in locating data. Any shortcomings are the responsibility of the authors. In addition, the content represents the views of the authors and does not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the RAND Corporation or any of its research sponsors.


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Copyright information

© Copyright RAND Corporation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian A. Jackson
    • 1
  • Edward W. Chan
    • 2
  • Tom LaTourrette
    • 2
  1. 1.RAND CorporationArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA

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