TSA moves toward e-check of IDs

TSA Blog screenshot: TSA TSIF.

A trial of the Electronic Credential Authentication Technology will start this fall at the Transportation Systems Integration Facility at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration cut an $85 million contract for technology that will let it electronically check passengers' identification cards and other documents against multiple databases.

The aim is to speed up passenger security lines at airports by allowing electronic checks of drivers' licenses and other documents that are now checked visually by TSA agents against passengers' boarding passes. The checks are typically the initial security point before a passenger enters the TSA's screening areas at airport gates.

TSA and contracting company Morphotrust are calling the program Electronic Credential Authentication Technology. The E-CAT contract could last as long as seven years, the company said.

E-CAT automatically checks security features embedded in a passenger's identification document to ensure it has not been altered or is counterfeit. Once the E-CAT is connected to TSA's network, this information will simultaneously be verified against the passenger boarding information from Secure Flight, TSA's watch list matching system that draws on multiple federal databases.

"Credential authentication technology determines whether identification documents presented at the checkpoint are authentic, fraudulent, or expired and uses identification document information to obtain a passenger's vetting status from Secure Flight," TSA said in a statement to FCW. "This technology will provide TSA officers with enhanced detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent and/or invalid passenger identification documents."

Over the last year and a half, TSA has conducted proof-of-concept activities at airports to test how its network infrastructure can be designed to support E-CAT operations. The trial will start this fall at the Transportation Systems Integration Facility at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport near Washington D.C.

If the system works in the trial run, TSA said, it would move into airports for further assessment.

MorphoTrust's technology is part of some of the agency's higher profile identity programs, including TSA Pre Check. It is also prime contractor for TSA's Universal Enrollment Services, a unified platform that links the Transportation Worker Identity Credential, or TWIC card, and Hazardous Materials Endorsement Threat Assessment Program into a single service with enrollment locations nationwide.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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