Homeland Security


Registered Traveler [RT] Program

In a November 2002 report requested by incoming Senate Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Kay Bailey Hutchison, the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that a "trusted" or "registered" traveler program would speed people through airport security checkpoints faster, reducing waiting times for many travelers. The GAO began the study at Senator Hutchison's request in July 2002. The GAO study found that security-related delays had discouraged short distance (750 miles or less) business travelers from flying and had cost the aviation industry up to $2.5 billion in lost revenue since September 11, 2001.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, launched the Registered Traveler pilot program in partnership with selected airlines and airports across the country.

TSA planned to begin pilot projects at up to five airports, involving up to 10,000 travelers, beginning at the end of June 2004. The pilots would run for 90 days. By October 2004, TSA would have data on the extent to which the pilot projects were successful in expediting through-put while maintaining or improving security.

The Registered Traveler pilot program is designed to improve the security screening process by helping TSA align screeners and resources with potential risks. Approved travelers will be positively identified at the airport through biometric technology. These passengers will go through expedited security screening at specially designated lanes in their home airports.

A primary purpose of the pilot program is to assess the actual benefits of a Registered Traveler program. Benefits may vary according to location, as each airport will deploy different technologies and will have different security checkpoint configurations. However, TSA is confident that users will benefit in two major categories: customer service and security .

Registered Travelers may pass more quickly into secure areas, easing congestion at checkpoints and reducing the wait time for all passengers in line for screening. Since more is known about Registered Traveler users, TSA screeners will be able to focus their efforts more efficiently and effectively.

Qualified participants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent legal residents. The airlines participating in the pilot program will send out invitation letters to their frequent travelers to advise them of this opportunity. Participation in the Registered Traveler Pilot Program is completely voluntary.

The TSA will collect personal information including name, address, phone number, and date of birth from volunteers along with biometric data, including a fingerprint and/or an iris scan. A security assessment that will include analysis of law enforcement and intelligence data sources and a check of outstanding wants and warrants will also be conducted.

Once the program is operational at their home airports, volunteers will proceed to a checkpoint designated for Registered Travelers and provide their biometric information. After passing through the biometric kiosk, Registered Travelers will go through primary screening and will not be randomly selected for secondary screening. However, Registered Travelers who cause the walk-through metal detector to alarm will undergo additional screening. All rules regarding prohibited items will still apply.

TSA will collect security, operational, customer service, and cost data, all of which will be analyzed at the conclusion of the Pilot Program. This data provides a platform for future development and allows TSA to evaluate new technologies.

The results of the five-airport pilot program will determine future applications of the Registered Traveler concept at other domestic airports.

Part of the Registered Traveler Pilot Program will focus on improving Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) credentials. Currently, Federal LEO's can fly armed at any time, simply by presenting their agency's credential. In addition, LEO's from 18,000 separate State and local law enforcement agencies may fly armed if they present their agency's credential and a letter on their agency's letterhead stating that they have an official, work-related reason to fly armed. The use of so many different types of law enforcement credentials increases the risk that an unauthorized person could use a forged credential to carry a gun on-board. Under the Registered Traveler Pilot Program, LEO's who wish to fly armed at the five pilot airports will be issued a biometric identification card by TSA, which will prove that the individual seeking to carry a gun on-board is in fact authorized to do so by the LEO's parent agency.

A GAO report and discussions with stakeholders identified a number of policy and implementation issues that might need to be addressed if a registered traveler program is to be implemented. Stakeholders held a wide range of opinions on such key policy issues as determining:

  1. who should be eligible to apply to the program;
  2. the type and the extent of background checks needed to certify that applicants can enroll in the program, and who should perform them;
  3. the security screening procedures that should apply to registered travelers, and how these would differ from those applied to other travelers; and
  4. the extent to which equity, privacy, and liability issues would impede program implementation.

Most stakeholders indicated that only the federal government has the resources and authority to resolve these issues. In addition to these policy questions, our research and stakeholders identified practical implementation issues that need to be considered before a program could be implemented. These include deciding:

  1. which technologies to use, and how to manage the data collected on travelers;
  2. how many airports and how many passengers should participate in a registered traveler program; and
  3. which entities would be responsible for financing the program, and how much it would cost.

Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback to the pilot program, Registered Traveler, was extended to September 2005. Also due to this feedback, the pilot program was expanded to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) in Orlando, FL, as part of a public/private partnership.

This pilot program for privatization of the "registered traveler" program at Orlando International Airport involving Verified Identity Pass, Inc., a partner of ChoicePoint. For a fee, frequent fliers would disclose personal information to a Verified Identity database for faster clearance through airport security.

As private firms participate in the modernization of routine security checks, such as those at our nation's airports, the security procedures employed by private dataminers merit close scrutiny. In April, 2001, the Wall Street Journal reported that ChoicePoint Inc. provided personal information to at least thirty-five government agencies and was the largest of the data suppliers. In March 2005 ChoicePoint disclosed that thieves may have stolen the personal data of more than 35,000 people in the state of California and up to 145,000 people nationwide.



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