Traveler smart card poses security concerns

While garnering support from stakeholders, the Transportation Security Administration's proposed registered traveler program could create new aviation vulnerabilities, the General Accounting Office found.

The program would allow certain credentialed and pre-screened passengers to speed through security checkpoints in airports using smart cards. The goal would be to reduce long waits and better target resources to those travelers who might pose greater risks.

"GAO concluded that a registered traveler program is one possible approach for managing some of the security vulnerabilities in our nation's aviation systems," office officials wrote in highlights of the November 2002 report. "However, decisions concerning key issues are needed before developing and implementing such a program."

GAO identified a slew of issues to resolve: eligibility criteria, level of background check required, security-screening procedures, technology options, scope, cost and financing options.

The TSA felt the study offered a good overview of the potential and the challenges of the registered traveler concept, according to GAO's highlights.

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which created the TSA in November 2001, allows the agency to consider the program. The TSA hopes to begin testing soon.

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