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Going Places Without The Ben Dover
For just $79.95, writes Joe Sharkey in The New York Times, you can have your hostility removed before boarding an airplane:

NOT to put too fine a point on it, but I'd rather take a whack up the side of the head with a sack of cobblestones than wait in a long line to be treated badly when my turn comes.

This helps explain why I told Steve Brill last week to please take my $79.95 and sign me up. Mr. Brill, who founded Court TV and The American Lawyer magazine, is now the chief executive of a company called Verified Identity Pass. If Mr. Brill gets his way (and he usually does), his company's Clear Registered Traveler Program could soon have many members paying $79.95 each year to obtain an identity card that allows them to pass through airport checkpoints without being treated like a prisoner being hustled to the cellblock.

The program is only now in an early test phase at Orlando International Airport in Florida. It's one of six registered-traveler programs that have been tried this year at various airports.

...What they all have in common is the means to let travelers identify themselves with a thin card encoded with their biometric data - iris and fingerprint scans - that the T.S.A. has checked against what Mr. Brill's company describes as "various terrorist-threat-related databases" and concluded that you have passed muster.

...The reward for that is expedited passage through security in a designated lane, along with the assurance that you won't be randomly hauled aside for one of those secondary inspections and pat downs. Other future benefits, Mr. Brill said, might exempt travelers from much disliked rules like having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from their cases.

To obtain a Clear Registered Traveler card, an applicant provides the company with his or her name, address, birth date, Social Security number, and two forms of government-issued ID. Digital images of an applicant's fingerprints and irises are made. The biographical and digital information is then sent to the T.S.A., which checks it. Mr. Brill's company says it guarantees restitution of any financial loss that might arise from the "highly unlikely event" that its basic information on you is used for identity theft.

The company does not get access to the T.S.A.'s evaluation, nor to any financial or other information on the applicant. Neither the company nor the applicant is told why an applicant is rejected.

Will you pay? Think about how much you make an hour and how much time you spend waiting in airport lines every year. Even if you're on the low rung at McDonald's, it seems to make a whole lot of sense to shell out.

Posted by aalkon at September 14, 2005 8:58 AM

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Comments

I usually love your posts, but I'm surprised that you didn't vehemently oppose this idea, particularly with your libertarian ideals. Do we really want to encourage an attitude that suggests one register their "name, address, birth date, Social Security number, two forms of government-issued ID," and "digital images of fingerprints and irises" before they're allowed to travel hassle free?

I mean, making something convenience is always the prelude to making it mandatory. And then, after being succesful, it begs doing the same for trains, workplaces, etc...

I mean, how much longer before I can no longer rent porn without my neighbours knowing? :)

Posted by: Andrew at September 14, 2005 12:41 AM

It would also seem to be a valuable tool for a new terrorist attack. If a terrorist cell can get one guy on board quickly with the goods, I doubt the other 4 or 5 would be deterred by a long line. A key part of Bin Ladens strategy is to wait until we let our guard down...

Posted by: eric at September 14, 2005 7:26 AM

Good points here, but speaking as a former high -volume business traveler, I'd sign up for this thing in a New York second. The line waits at most airports are almost unbearable these days, and no one thinks the current screening procedures are anything but an elaborate show for the rest of the public.

My wife works as a flight attendant at American, and what she and her co - workers think about the relative effectiveness of the screenings are unprintable here.

Posted by: Dmac at September 14, 2005 7:51 AM

Andrew, I don't endorse it, and I don't think it will solve anything, but I'd sign up for it in a second. Moreover, if you don't think the government has easy access to a record of everything you do, you're naive. Unless you pay cash and use payphones...

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 14, 2005 9:16 AM

This is just a good way to see how many people will go how far for the illusion of security.

Rather than figuring out how you can pay for the awesome privilege of not being presumed guilty of something, you should be refusing to put up with sham tactics and the propaganda of fear.

For instance, no commercial airliner has ever been downed by small-arms fire to the airframe - and yes, there have been those who have tried. Several airliners have survived bombs. See http://www.jacdec.de/ . Learn to spot the hoaxes and the ignorant when they talk about "security".

Posted by: Radwaste at September 14, 2005 4:17 PM

Wow, what a scam...I was wondering how long it would take for someone to profit from the impatient "rat-racers" who will give up virtually anything to be unbothered. It really reminds me of paying a bully your lunch money so he'll move along to the next victim.

So now you have to pay for freedoms which used to be afforded to all because of these "terrorists" (or imagined hobgoblins depending on who you're asking). Shame on those who sign up for this trash, the thought of having to buy my freedoms back makes me sick...but that's what it ALWAYS comes back to isn't it? The Dollar Divine.

By the way - Will there be additional fees depending on the current threat level?

Jeremy

Posted by: Ziontao at September 14, 2005 8:21 PM

There is also a category of person for which all the above criteria have already been satisfied: the concealed-carry gun permit holder, who has already gone an extra mile simply to exercise a Constitutional right. Of course this will not be considered. It's about money.

Travelers, how do you like being presumed guilty?

Posted by: Radwaste at September 15, 2005 1:52 AM

A) Not quite sure how I feel about the whole speedpass thing. As a traveler I like it for the convenience portion only, as a citizen I am wary of it.

B) As far as the concealed gun permit... I want anyone who isn't in law enforcement yet feels the need or desire to carry a concealed handgun to have to go through a thorough screening process. Having been in law enforcement for a number of years and carrying a sidearm (in plain view I might add) I don't like the fact of ANYONE being able to walk around with a gun just because they feel like it. There was a whole different reasoning behind that amendment when it was written, reasoning that is not nearly as relevant today.

Posted by: Senor Limey at September 15, 2005 3:01 PM

"There was a whole different reasoning behind that amendment when it was written, reasoning that is not nearly as relevant today."

The point is not to go on about Constitutional incorporation - but to point out that literally millions of people have already bent over for a government which is actually a) bound to consider them innocent until proven guilty, b) incapable of protecting an individual or group from attack, and c) protected by Supreme Court ruling and plain logic from being sued for failure to protect individuals. That the public has been fooled into thinking they are criminals waiting for an opportunity is part of the reason some actually think paying to be thought innocent is appealing.

It should make you puke - because, if you are in law enforcement and can think about security for a few minutes, I'm certain you can figure out at least two ways to bring down an airliner; you should know, professionally, that just as the law does not disarm a smart thug, "safety" is an illusion.

By the way - out here in the sticks, we show up to support the Deputy; you can count on a firearm in every house. Funny how when people are disarmed, the crime rate skyrockets, isn't it?

Let me remind everyone that no commercial airliner has ever been downed by small-arms fire to the airframe (See http://www.jacdec.de/ ). That will continue. Now that the passengers know what is at stake, there isn't going to be another airliner/skyscraper impact no matter how many people-we-can't-search-because-that's-profiling we let on the plane.

Meanwhile, Granny, take out your teeth and strip. We think you're a terrorist.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 15, 2005 4:42 PM

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