NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What About a "Trusted-Traveler" I.D. Card?

January 17, 2002

Under current law, every piece of checked luggage at more than 400 U.S. airports must be screened for explosives. But to comply with the law, the system needs thousands of scanning machines that haven't even been ordered yet. Or thousands of bomb-sniffing dogs, of which only about 175 have been certified. Or hand searches of bags, which would cause horrendous and unacceptable delays.

Matching the bag to the passenger might be an option, were it not for the fact that there is no guarantee a passenger changing flights would board the second leg of his scheduled flight.

So, despite the law, the system will still be full of gaping holes.

But suppose the U.S. adopted a procedure called "voluntary screening," in use in Israel?

  • Voluntary screening involves people willing to submit to a one-time background check and security interview to obtain a trusted-traveler identification card and thereafter bypass a portion of the check-in procedures.
  • This program -- instituted four years ago at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport -- allows security personnel to focus more of their resources on serious threats and dramatically reduces long security lines.
  • Officials report that Israeli citizens carrying such a card can get through the check-in process in 15 minutes -- as opposed to the two hours needed to process someone without a card.
  • Proponents of the card wager that millions of frequent flyers would jump at the chance to qualify for one -- and thereafter avoid the hassles of the current procedures.

Source: Robert Poole (Reason Foundation), "To Speed Up Airport Security, Issue I.D. Cards," Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2002.

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