"Registered Traveler" To Allow Easy Screening -- For A
Airline passengers may
soon be able to breeze through security screening lines -- after
submitting 10 fingerprints, having their credit histories and
property records scrutinized, and paying a fee.
TSA officials told the Associated Press this week that, after
testing the "Registered Traveler" program at five airports from
summer 2004 through last September, the system is nearly ready. The
TSA is expected to announce the program Friday.
TSA chief Kip Hawley said the program might mean registered
cardholders wouldn't have to take their shoes off before going
through screening, and may even be able to keep their laptops in
The program will be handled by private companies, which will
only be able to sell Registered Traveler cards after proving to the
TSA they have a method of somehow determining whether applicants
pose a risk -- such as combing through bank records, insurance data
and other personal information available commercially, or by some
"It's finding everything out about that person so they're not
some kind of unknown," said an anonymous official.
Critics to the
program, however, say that puts the burden on private
companies to essentially become law enforcement officers.
"I'm not sure that Registered Traveler should be a research
program," said James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for
Democracy and Technology, adding that the idea of using commercial
data to sniff out a sleeper cell is shaky, at best.
Marcia Hofmann, an attorney with the privacy group Electronic
Privacy Information Center, told the AP it wasn't clear
whether federal privacy laws would apply to the program.
"It sounds like they want private companies to be in the
business of law enforcement and intelligence gathering," Hofmann
Critics have already attacked the TSA for obtaining passenger
information without their knowledge -- often through commercial
sources -- in its oft-maligned Secure Flight program. There is also
concern such information could be corrupted -- or stolen, as was
the case last year with data broker ChoicePoint Inc.
A security breach at that company resulted in thousands of
identities being stolen, affecting some 1.2 million federal
employees with Bank of America charge cards.
Commercial data brokering services -- the kind that Registered
Traveler would rely on -- have already been proven by one outfit
not to be up to the task of collecting needed information.
"We dropped the idea after fully testing it and finding that it
had no security benefits and significant, almost show-stopping
negatives," said representatives with Verified Identity Pass, a
company already running a Registered Traveler test program in
Orlando (FL), to the TSA.
Verified Identity Pass charges nearly $80 for their card.
Companies such as General Electric, ARINC and Iridian
Technologies, however, believe they can handle those issues -- and
say there's money to be made on Registered Traveler.
"Travelers want it," said Steve van Beek, spokesman for the
airport group Airports Council International. "We can accommodate
their desire for customer service and provide better security."