The level of screening of travelers will depend on how closely their personal characteristics match against intelligence on potential terrorists. The measures will replace mandatory enhanced screening of all passengers travelling to the United States from 14 mostly-Muslim nations.
The announcement made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) comes after a three-month review of security protocols. The current "no-fly" list is to remain in place under the new procedures, but supplemented by cross-referenced information that may see passengers subject to further screening even if their names are not flagged.
Characteristics such as nationality, age, recently visited countries, and partial names will be used alongside the "no-fly" list. Intelligence on a possible attacker - a partial name, certain physical characteristics, or nationality - would be forwarded by the DHS to airlines and foreign governments.
US government guidelines prohibit authorities from singling out people on the basis of race or ethnicity but the Christmas Day plot changed the debate about racial profiling. As one Congressman put it ""The fact is, while the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding people, on the other hand 100% of the Islamic terrorists are Muslims, and that is our main enemy today."