In preparation for my upcoming trip to St Petersburg, Russia and Athens, Greece I wanted to secure a TSA PreCheck Clearance, an approval I believed would be relatively stress free to obtain. My first step was to call 411 information and get the phone number for the local US Transportation Safety Agency. I should have expected that the information recorder would not understand (!!!!) what I was asking for causing me to finally hang up and call back requesting the Baton Rouge Metro Airport number. Calmly, I dialed the airport number and got a recording. Angered, I gave up trying to get assistance from a real person on the phone and went to my "trusted" friend, Google. The information given said the center's address was located at 4305 Bluebonnet Blvd conveniently located only ten minutes from my home. Driving slowly down busy Bluebonnet Blvd, I searched for this address and ended up turning into the Parc at Claycut Bayou office complex. What I found at the referenced address was a sign for EMSI,"lead and innovate." My frustration level was rising! I called the airport back; got the recording again and "hung up" on a machine for the third time!!! After driving completely through the office park a second time I decided to go back to the EMSI address and ask if they knew where the TSA office had relocated. What I noticed on the door's windowpane was a small, makeshift paper sign with an arrow pointing around the corner. I thought to myself; boy the US Government is not what it used to be.
From the moment I entered the cramped, chaotic office; I felt ill at ease. For starters a gentleman was highly agitated and screaming at one of the female screeners. I began to realize this situation could get out of hand and hoped he wasn't carrying a weapon since there was no form of security present. Next I was directed to sit in a small waiting room until I was called to make the application. After ten minutes I met with a screener, answered a few questions, showed her my passport and drivers license and was fingerprinted on both thumbs and hands. The cost was $85.00. She said I would receive a KTN, known traveler number, within a month and that I was to use this number when booking all of my future flight reservations. She further explained the KTN will now be printed on all of my boarding passes allowing me to enjoy a streamlined, fast-track screening process at participating airports. Have you ever noticed the travelers who don't have to take off their shoes, belts or jackets and who just zip through a special line to get to their flight gate? This is the benefit of a KTN number.
What I found most disturbing about my TSA PreCheck experience was that a third-party company, EMSI who is owned by Morpho Trust headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, was doing the airport security screenings as well as other functions such as life insurance health tests, Hazmat endorsements for truckers licenses and Twic card applications/approvals for plant workers in a small, unprotected office in Baton Rouge. With Homeland and airport security being foremost in most travelers' minds it was "unreassuring" to know a private company was preforming part of the Homeland security function. All I could think of was a "smart terrorist" could probably beat this system fairly easily. Bottomline; It is my opinion the US Transportation Safety Agency should be doing all security checks and clearances directly. The KTN number is worth the hassle: don't be confused in Baton Rouge when trying to find where to go to apply for it!!