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The Department of Homeland Security hastily cancelled a fledgling plan Wednesday that would have taken federal air marshals off long-distance flights to cut costs.

USA Today reported the about-face came after some marshals were informed of schedule changes that would bump them off flights requiring overnight hotel stays. That would have left most international and cross-country flights, such as those hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, without the added security.

The placement of air marshals on U.S. airlines was one of several measures taken by the federal government to tighten aviation security after the Sept. 11 attacks. An estimated 4,000 armed and plainclothes marshals ride in the cabins of commercial airlines.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports the Department of Homeland Security hopes to begin testing a revised air passenger screening program soon, after hundreds of complaints that the original proposals would be an invasion of privacy.

The department suspended the development of the program about seven weeks ago after it drew fire from business travelers, civil liberties advocates and some lawmakers who feared that it gave the government too much license to pry.

The revised system will take routine information that people provide when making reservations and run it against commercial databases to confirm a passenger’s identity. It will comb watch lists and other national security data to determine if a passenger has any links to terrorist groups. Under the new plan, information on the passenger will be retained by the government for a few hours after travel is complete, rather than for 50 years as proposed in the initial plan.


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