2003-11-09 22:27 UTC SSSS
Since my boarding pass was once again marked SSSS this morning I took the opportunity to ask what could trigger a quad-S screening selection. Apparently they are not allowed to profile based on nationality, but paying by cash and changing flight plans at the last minute are only 2 of 30 criteria that they use to pick customers that should be screened extra carefully. In addition, there is a 15% chance that people who don't match those 30 criteria will be selected randomly.
It really is no big deal though. When you are used to it, you can actually use the SSSS marking to fast-track yourself through the security checkpoint during peak hours. Just skip the queue and show your quad-S marking, which lets you go through a special lane. Take your shoes off, put everything that is in your trouser pockets into your coat pockets. When you get to the baggage screening machine, take your laptop out and put everything (shoes, coat, bag, laptop) into the trays provided. (You have to do this anyway, even if you are not marked for extra screening).
Then when you arrive get the other side of the metal detector, follow the security personnel to their extra-screening area, and simply follow their instructions to the letter (sit here, lift this leg, lift that leg, stand, arms up, and so forth). In no time, you'll be out of the security area, on the "safe" side, while the people who are not marked for extra screening will be still queueing, providing a largely unprotected soft target for terrorists.
It's rather ironic that the measures for increasing security actually result in making the higher-risk passengers safer and the normal passengers an easy target.