Flying Through Airport Security

Not many people are aware of the growing ability to breeze through airport security — a growing bottleneck all travelers dread. In the post 9-11 era, new security measures were implemented at airports and public buildings in order to provide greater protection without strangling the free flow of people and commerce. As these measures were implemented by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), and security staff at other public places, we’ve seen a marked increase in scrutiny and an even higher increase in the level of inefficiency. As in an old movie, I’m tempted to raise the window, lean out, and scream “I’m fed up and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Care to join me? Of course you would.

What most people don’t know is that the government and private industry have been working on this intolerable situation by testing out and implementing a Registered Travel Program. The Registered Traveler Program was conceived as an experiment in expediting the process of being cleared for entry onto an airplane. The experiment ran for 15 months, cost $22 million in funding and had 10,000 participants. On September 30, 2005 the TSA announced that the funding had been fully spent, significant information gathered for analysis, and therefore the trial run of the Registered Travel Program had concluded.

But the story isn’t over. Not by a long shot. That’s because it takes a number of experimental programs before the Federal Government ultimately develops a system that both lessens the waiting time of flying yet does not compromise national security.

The Clear program is an experiment in the ability of such a program being funded by its own profits and run by a business. It was developed by Verified Identity Pass, Inc. (founded by Steven Brill, who was also founder of American Lawyer Media.) The program was originally planned on running until early 2006, with the possibility of extension beyond that.

Clear began at the Orlando International Airport. It is still continuing, and expanding. The airports covered by Clear today include Albany, Cincinnati, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Little Rock, New York JFK, New York LGA, Newark, Orlando, Reno, San Francisco, San José, and Westchester.

The premise is simple. Verified’s clients submit to periodic background checks and have their personal information — including biometrics such as fingerprints and iris scans — stored on an identification card. In return, they’re allowed to use a private security checkpoint at any airport which has one.

The voluntary identity credentialing industry is already starting to take off. Initial entrants have been quickly gobbled up by larger entities. The data that results from Clear will be compared to that of the national program and conclusions will be drawn as to how a program in the future might possibly be funded: publicly or privately. It’s clear that Steve Brill and others are already of the opinion that private funding will become the accepted model. And a profitable one for those who are first on the scene. And from a taxpayer’s perspective that makes sense. Why should our pockets be picked to make traveling faster for some? Let those who travel most frequently pay for their special credentialing privately, with a portion of the profits used to provide airports with the necessary private security entrances. That way the TSA staff at airports will have greater use of their own resources to focus on those who might truly present a security risk.

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