- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

A U.S. Department of Transportation task force is moving forward with plans for a national transportation-worker identity card intended as a first step toward "trusted-traveler" cards for airline passengers.
The trusted-traveler card is part of the Aviation and Transportation Security signed by President Bush Nov. 19 that authorized the Transportation Security Administration to "establish requirements to implement trusted passenger programs and use available technologies to expedite the security screening of passengers."
Trusted-traveler cards would authorize passengers to bypass extensive security screening at airport checkpoints. The Israeli government instituted a trusted-traveler program five years ago in an effort to speed up long lines at airport security checkpoints.
The electronic card would have an encoded biometric description of the owner to ensure that the person using it is the same person identified on the card. Biometrics refers to computerized systems that identify a unique part of each person's anatomy, such as fingerprints, facial structure or irises.
Eventually, the Transportation Department task force wants the cards to be used throughout airports and transportation services internationally. The card is intended to shorten lines at airports, but FBI background checks would disseminate information about the owners to many law enforcement agencies.
Currently, the transportation-worker identity card is in a draft proposal that needs approval from the Transportation Security Administration and its new director, John Magaw.
The idea of expanding the plan from transportation workers to travelers has critics.
"This is a backdoor national ID," said Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This so-called trusted-passenger card will become essentially mandatory for everyone to use not only on airlines but also buses, trains and perhaps drives over bridges and tunnels. The consequences of not having a trusted-passenger card is that you will be immediately suspect."
He said the card created additional privacy risks from identity theft, inaccurate information and giving information to foreign governments on political refugees.
Initially, only transportation workers would use the identification cards to control access to secure sites, such as passenger boarding areas or docks where freight is loaded, stored or received. It would be used for all transportation modes, including airlines, freight and passenger ships, railroads, trucks, buses and pipelines.
The draft proposal, developed by the Credentialing Direct Agency Group (CDAG), foresees wider uses for the cards that could include the trusted-traveler program.
"The focus of the CDAG's solution was on workers in the transportation system, while achieving sufficient flexibility to accommodate future needs to address identification of users of the transportation system," the draft proposal says. "The identification card system developed would apply to any person who has unescorted access to a transportation facility or who has access to control of a transportation conveyance."
CDAG is one of the task forces within the National Infrastructure Security Committee that Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta organized within weeks after the September 11 attacks.
The proposal recommends that the same card be used throughout a national, and perhaps international, network.
For transportation-worker identification, the cards would contain name, biometric information, date of birth, address, security clearance level, cargo authorization and an identification number. Details of the biometric information which most likely would be a fingerprint would be determined by the Transportation Security Administration.
"We're looking at all these kinds of issues," said Hank Price, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. "I think it would be premature to discuss any specifics at all."
Among its supporters is Rep. John Culberson, a Texas Republican who this week is soliciting signatures from fellow congressmen for a letter he is sending to Mr. Bush. The letter encourages the president to act promptly to develop the "smart cards."
"The program would allow airport security and law-enforcement personnel to focus their attention and resources on passengers who pose a legitimate hijacking threat and would help the Transportation Security Administration achieve its stated goal of screening passengers and baggage with no passenger delays greater than 10 minutes," the letter says.
Mr. Culberson also supports the preliminary step of the national transportation-worker identification card, according to his spokesman.

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