NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Critics Raise Questions About "Trusted Travelers" ID Cards

April 9, 2002

Allowing trusted frequent flyers and others to obtain easy-to-recognize and hard-to-counterfeit identification cards that would allow them to zip through airline security procedures would seem to be a good idea.

But some critics are coming up with objections that could scuttle such a plan.

Here are some of those objections:

  • The American Civil Liberties Union has ridiculed the concept as a "get out of security free" card -- and charges it would be impossible to safeguard the confidential information travelers would have to divulge about themselves.
  • Some skeptics question the effectiveness of such a card -- claiming terrorists are adept at blending into society and becoming nondescript enough to fool the gatekeepers.
  • Consumer advocates contend that terrorists are capable of getting any sort of identification (ID).

Implementing an ID system would take time. So far, the government hasn't even been able to devise a card for flight attendants, pilots or Secret Service agents.

But unless something is done, frequent travelers may become a thing of the past -- and airlines know it. In a recent survey fully 60 percent said they had cut back on their flying purely to avoid airport problems.

Source: Matthew L. Wald, "ID Card for 'Trusted Travelers' Run Into Some Thorny Questions," New York Times, April 9, 2002.


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