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Fly in the Fast Lane
January 25, 2006 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Tired of standing in line at the airport? Worried that you might share a name with a known terrorist or subversive on the TSA's mysterious no-fly lists? Relax. Get fingerprinted and/or iris scanned. And pay $79.95 a year to become a Registered Traveler, and fly Clear in the fast lane. (And note how quickly conceptual art projects become indistinguishable from reality.) Meanwhile, the Feds settle an ACLU lawsuit over the no-fly lists... while revealing no information about them. [Lists recently discussed here].
posted by digaman (52 comments total)

 
Looks like it's only avaivable at Orlando Intnl Airport right now. However, it does say "will soon be a part of a nationwide network of key airports around the country"... hmmm. Not sure I'd pay $80 / year for this; at least not until it's more widespread...
posted by Mave_80 at 9:37 AM on January 25, 2006


Mave, from the "reality" link: "The nationwide Registered Traveler will be up and running in summer 2006."
posted by digaman at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2006


I'm glad to see that federal government is working with a private company for the seemingly sole purpose of enriching that company. Oh, and "protecting" us from the ten or twenty airplanes that get hijacked or blown up every day in the U.S.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2006


"Dear poor people: stand over there. Thanks!"
posted by Skot at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2006


Meanwhile, the Feds settle an ACLU lawsuit over the no-fly lists...

The "no-fly" list is a stupid idea. What you want is a "yes-fly" list and remain cautiously suspicious of everyone else. That's what this system appears to be and if it gets me through the queues faster then it's a great idea.
posted by three blind mice at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2006


Agree with you Optimus - Remeber INSPass? Government run, cost about $25 to enroll, restricted to business travellers, and available at most international airports (or the ones I went to anyway). One of the first things the Dept. of Homeland Security did was to close the program for security reasons. Now it's back in private form.
posted by Sk4n at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2006


Why does there need to be a list at all? Why is identity important to travelling?

Gilmore v. Gonzales
posted by Laen at 9:50 AM on January 25, 2006


Precisely, Skot. And by the way, I was one of the recipients of the nasty SSSS code on my last plane ticket -- requiring a much more elaborate search -- which makes me wonder if I am marked for life, and/or what known terrorist suspect could possibly share my name. And three blind mice, I disagree with you that requiring an $80 a year subscription to a private service, plus fingerprinting and/or iris scanning, to board a plane without undue hassle is a "great idea." It feels more like being one of those frogs in the water that heats up slowly until it's boiling.
posted by digaman at 9:51 AM on January 25, 2006


"Dear poor people: stand over there. Thanks!"

Dear not-too-poor-to-fly people, you mean.

Getting people out of the security queue helps everyone - even poor people - to move through the airport faster.
posted by three blind mice at 9:52 AM on January 25, 2006


And Mussolini kept the trains running on time, they say.
posted by digaman at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2006


And three blind mice, I disagree with you that requiring an $80 a year subscription to a private service, plus fingerprinting and/or iris scanning, to board a plane without undue hassle is a "great idea." It feels more like being one of those frogs in the water that heats up slowly until it's boiling.

Dude, it's OPTIONAL. When the water feels too warm for you, just climb out and towel off.
posted by three blind mice at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2006


Getting people out of the security queue helps everyone - even poor people - to move through the airport faster.

Ah, the trickle-down theory. Reaganomics has made its way to the airport.
posted by keswick at 9:57 AM on January 25, 2006


Ah, the trickle-down theory. Reaganomics has made its way to the airport.

Ah, no actually.

Been to an airport recently keswick? In person I mean.
posted by three blind mice at 10:00 AM on January 25, 2006


Remeber INSPass? Now it's back in private form. - Sk4n

At over 3 times the price!
posted by raedyn at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2006


So, TBM, I now have the "OPTION" of surrendering my private data and paying a private company to obtain the ability to fly on an airplane without threat of being no-fly blacklisted or intrusively searched. Why, I feel more secure already!
posted by digaman at 10:05 AM on January 25, 2006


No, I believe if man were meant to fly, God wouldn't have created Southwest.
posted by keswick at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2006


When the concept of "sliced" bread was announced, did folks here at the MeFi complain about it? just wondering.....
posted by HuronBob at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2006


This discussion perfectly touches on the rationale (and complications) for Acclair. An elite "cleared" (or "Acclaired" in Acclairism parlance) emerges out of the need for convenience and acceptance of the legitimacy of biometric authentication/identification technology. Then another 911 makes this system inadequate, so to be cleared you have to not only be biometrically identified to pass but your thoughts also need to be vetted. It's not too far off. The acceptance of biometrics often glosses over the fact that a machine is doing the vetting and the machine's code will not be made public -- similar problem now with voting machines and Diebold. What happens when the machine says you can't fly?
posted by loot001 at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2006


but your thoughts also need to be vetted. It's not too far off.

No, it's not, as this piece in the New Scientist, and an article I recently wrote for Wired, previously FPP'd here by robbyrobs, makes plain.
posted by digaman at 10:19 AM on January 25, 2006


The ACLU's press release on the Registered Traveler program: "What's worse, this program won't make us safer. Members of a terrorist sleeper cell could obtain false identification and become registered travelers, using the lessened security screening to evade detection and commit a terrorist act. Congress should not spend scarce homeland security dollars on a program that makes us more vulnerable. And Congress should not support a program that draws a big bull's-eye on the private information of America's frequent travelers."
posted by digaman at 10:29 AM on January 25, 2006


OK, digaman's links have freaked me right the hell out.

I flew to and from the Orlando airport a half-dozen times last summer, and saw those "pre-screen" lines. I saw one guy go through in all my time standing at the airport (a total of probably 90 minutes spead out over several weeks).

So, it's getting a slow start, or was at that point anyway.
posted by BoringPostcards at 10:30 AM on January 25, 2006


Unamusingly enough, I found myself SSSS'd last Sunday. Knowing how this administration works, I would not be surprised to find a deliberate bias against frequent travellers installed in the system, to "encourage" them to pony up the $80 bucks and the information to get through the line faster.
posted by eriko at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2006


Internal passports?
posted by Space Coyote at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2006


three blind mice: The "no-fly" list is a stupid idea. What you want is a "yes-fly" list...

Why is/how is "yes-fly" superior to "no-fly"?

By now we've all heard horror stories about mistakes on the "no-fly" list. Is there reason to think a "yes-fly" list would be any more accurate?
posted by Western Infidels at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2006


the Gilmore v.s. Gonzales case looks interesting, but I'm guessing Gilmore will lose - something along the lines of "you don't have to produce papers to travel, but you have to produce papers to travel on their privately owned airline service."

This sound likely? Anyone with more legal background have a guess on this? I guess a lot may depend on whether they're claiming that these rules are corporate policy or federal law?
posted by stenseng at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2006


It was my understanding that some of the 9/11 terrorists were reasonably entrenched sleeper cell folks living 'normal' lives. Would any of them qualified for Fly Clear" list?

Class War issues aside... this sounds like a horrible idea.
posted by underdog at 10:53 AM on January 25, 2006


I mean whatever happened to "We have to be right all the time, they only have to be right once"?
posted by underdog at 10:54 AM on January 25, 2006


Mustn't hassle the people with expensive lawyers. They complain too loudly.
posted by ryanrs at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2006


Bruce Schneier has written at length about the folly of the no-fly list, which he has refered to as a list of people apparently too dangerous to fly but not dangerous enough to arrest. He's pointed out the most on-point proof of it's worthlessness that I have yet to see: in order to determine who could avoid the scrutiny all any potential terrorists have to do is schedule a day-trip somewhere. Anyone who doesn't get stopped on this completely innocent scouting mission (therefor providing no reason for suspicion or arrest) is clear to make it through on the next non-innocent mission without incident.
posted by phearlez at 11:38 AM on January 25, 2006


Exactly, Digaman. The first thing I would do as a terrorist is sign up for this service.
posted by V4V at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2006


the Gilmore v.s. Gonzales case looks interesting, but I'm guessing Gilmore will lose - something along the lines of "you don't have to produce papers to travel, but you have to produce papers to travel on their privately owned airline service."

This sound likely?


No. Enforcement is done by federal employees (DHS/TSA) at the behest of a federal agency (TSA). The airlines have no latitude to declare they are willing to schlep people unscreened.
posted by phearlez at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2006


Why is/how is "yes-fly" superior to "no-fly"? By now we've all heard horror stories about mistakes on the "no-fly" list. Is there reason to think a "yes-fly" list would be any more accurate?

To answer your first question, the theory being that there are a large number of "safe" passengers and a few number of "terrorists" you shouldn't invest equal time in examining "all" passengers. If you could filter out "safe" passengers then there are fewer unknown passengers who need to be screened and every one of these can probably then be subjected to a full cavity search.

As to the accuracy, sure there could be problems and I am not sure how foolproof it can be, but as a frequent traveller who is most definitely not a terrorist and more than willing to prove it, I hate being subjected to intrusive security searches when there is no point to it.

Let those who choose to remain obcsure to the TSA submit to taking their shoes off and having their bodies groped before getting on every flight. Personally it is far more of an intrusion of my personal space to go through that than to fill out an application and pay 80 bucks, but hey everyone's different.
posted by three blind mice at 11:42 AM on January 25, 2006


Seems if 1) they just had reliable screening methods for explosives and undeniable dangerous objects and 2) the cockpit was inaccessible to the rest of the plane many of the concerns would be addressed.
(see I have this 5p nail that should be hammered in, should I use a standard hammer, or a 20lb sledge?)


Slicked bread did not become popular until after WWII when returning GIs nostalgic for the PBJs made with.. sliced bread started buying it. So, yes MEFis would probably have protested against it at first, just like the majority of Americans.
posted by edgeways at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2006


er.. sliced... not so sure about slicked bread
posted by edgeways at 11:50 AM on January 25, 2006


a) This is not and will never be a Get Out Of The Waiting Line Free card. People with the card will still have to be screened.

b) Any system that creates an express line will make the "normal" lines longer and slower, because screeners who could be helping normal people are instead screening people with the card.

c) Knowing who someone is still isn't the same as knowing whether or not they are a Bad Guy.

d) Special ID cards offer yet one more exciting venue for identity theft.

e) In consideration of c and d above, some Bad Guys will get these cards, completely defeating the purpose of the system.

The nicest thing I can say about this system is that (mostly) private citizens will be wasting their money on it rather than tax dollars.
posted by ilsa at 12:08 PM on January 25, 2006


The right way to read this is: For only 80 dollars I can help make airports even less secure? Sweet!

Once you make an identifying characteristic that biases passenger screening you've introduced a weakness that can be exploited. It doesn't matter if it's skin colour, religion or paying 80 bucks to be pre-screened. The built in bias can be exploited.
posted by substrate at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2006


Arrgh, come on, this is an incredibly dangerous idea and anyone who thinks otherwise is being blinded by their own want for convenience. I'm sure I'm missing some good points, too. Here's an idea: Check every fucking bag, every fucking time. If that's a burden, then charge the cost to the flier per bag and/or allow vacation travellers to check their bags days in advance. If the cost of security is sent to the consumer, then the free market will find a solution. If that takes too long or is too expensive, then people will FedEx their stuff to themselves at their destination. Worried about your laptop? Rent one, nerdboy. Worried about [insert rare, special situation here]? I'm sure you can figure out a solution if you think really hard.

The bottom line is that the airline industry is a failure that's being propped up by government subsidies. Flying should be expensive and inconvenient. I don't know if anybody's noticed, but flinging 413 metric tons into the air thousands and thousands of time a day is kind of a big deal. People need to get over this idea that flying is a casual thing. We can no longer afford to fly casually (that's why so many airlines are, you know, going bankrupt.)

Of course, judging from the marketplace for common sense these days, I predict that the Registered Traveller's Program will be greatly popular.
posted by Skwirl at 12:27 PM on January 25, 2006


No, I believe I'll hang onto my last bit of privatecy and $80 thank you.

Airline waiting areas should just adopt the same policy the diner down the street from me has. They have a sign reading "If you're in a hurry, you've come to the wrong place!"
posted by slip81 at 12:31 PM on January 25, 2006


The Registered Traveler CLEAR program is completely voluntary, but you must: You get a large form factor smart card containing your personal data. When you arrive at a participating airport's CLEAR security checkpoint, you must insert your card and have your fingerprint or iris rescanned to confirm a match to the card's data. Once past the checkpoint, like any other passenger, you and your bags are screened (and you can still be selected for random TSA security checks.) Your CLEAR membership is regularly reviewed and can be revoked if your security status changes.

The capability of paying $80 per year hardly classifies one as elite: how many MeFi'ers pay that every few months for broadband access? For frequent business flyers, $80 per year would be worth saving many hours per week standing in line.

On the face of it, the ACLU's statement that the RTP "won't make us safer" is true, but neither will it make (the rest of) us any less safe. CLEAR subscribers still go through the same security checks as other passengers, but they just get to the head of the line faster. The main point of the program is convenience for those who choose to enroll in it. Besides, the more RT subscribers there are, the shorter the normal lines will be.

The current installation at Orlando International Airport is a pilot program. Last Friday, the Transportation Security Administration issued a status update on the RTP, TSA Announces Key Elements of Registered Traveler Program. There's a RTP FAQ here.

BTW, CLEAR is run by Verified Indentity Pass, whose CEO is Stephen Brill (founder of Court TV).
posted by cenoxo at 12:36 PM on January 25, 2006


I'm on a no-fly list and I can't wait to sign up for this program. Well, OK, so someone with my first and last name is on the list, but I get to reap the benefits of their being such a nice, nice person.

Oh, I can be permitted access to the secret info in government databases, but I can't get on a plane without a secondary screening.

One time, and this is way ironic, I had to show a special badge to the TSA so that they wouldn't open my secure laptop on a business trip as they weren't of sufficient clearance level, yet I was still required to go to secondary.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:43 PM on January 25, 2006


So. from what I can tell, this is basically like a VIP line... my misgivings are mostly that I don't think airport security should be immitating vegas night clubs.

Secondly, I don't see any actual convenience with this program, since you're still going to be searched like everyone else. I fly pretty regularly (every 2-3 weeks) and honestly, I almost never spend more than 10 minutes in a security line... even over christmas when the airport was packed I was only in line for about 15 minutes.

Basically, I think this is solving a non-existent problem (that being lengthy security lines... excepting international flights.. last time I went to London I did have a long security line). And, also the fact that I think current security screening procedures are ridiculous and wholly ineffectual at doing anything other than irritating a lot of people.
posted by gambit at 1:14 PM on January 25, 2006


America: rapidly becoming a two-tiered society, of those who agree to give up their privacy with loyalty oaths and loyalty programs to participate in what used to be free, and everyone else.
posted by orthogonality at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2006


Yes, I'm going to show those TSA fuckers, I'm only going to provide them my personal information each time I buy a ticket, check in at the airport AND when I go through security rather than a single time once a year! Those pricks!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:35 PM on January 25, 2006


cenoxo's description sounds like flying through some airports with a business class or first class ticket -- without the iris scan.

Airports that don't offer 1st class lines, will still have the problem of too many people and not enough metal detectors. Those of us in coach will have to wait longer while the lane for the people with the cards will have their own empty line. I also don't see how my "background" which is based partly on my credit score determines my willingness to blow up the plane.

This doesn't seem to be solving anything except a public beta test of an iris-scan ID card. Will it cut down wait times for frequent travelers? Maybe. Will is make the skies safer? No.

Air travel is just as safe/dangerous has it was on 9/10/01. Only now, the government is throwing money and technology.
posted by birdherder at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2006


This is so hilareously dangerous and makes a such a mockery of the security queues. All the terrorist groups have to do now is keep throwing guys at the Registered Traveler program and once they get a team of Registered Travelers they are good to go.
posted by Mitheral at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2006


And it’s not plutocracy because...?

from the Gilmore v. Gonzales link:

“He asked to see the law demanding he show his 'papers' and was told after a time that the law was secret and no, he wouldn't be allowed to read it.”

The law is a secret?


I think I’ll find a guy who has one of these cards, beat the crap out of him and steal his information and his card. Then I’ll breeze right through. If it doesn’t work, at least I got to pop the stoolie.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:14 PM on January 25, 2006


This doesn't seem to be solving anything except a public beta test of an iris-scan ID card.

This is what I think as well. They want to test this stuff in a relatively large-scale way before they roll out the mandatory internal passports for everyone. They have to work all the bugs out of the system before it is expanded for millions, of course.

Doesn't RealID require a lot of this stuff for driver's licenses in coming years anyway? You can avoid the flight stuff, but not nearly so many people can avoid getting a driver's license.
posted by beth at 4:22 PM on January 25, 2006


...and steal his information and his card. The I'll breeze right throught it.

Not unless you also nick a finger and an eyeball—à la Minority Report—while you're at it. Might be a little awkward at the ID kiosk, though.
posted by cenoxo at 4:38 PM on January 25, 2006


Skwirl writes "Worried about your laptop? Rent one, nerdboy. Worried about [insert rare, special situation here]? I'm sure you can figure out a solution if you think really hard."

I am not trusting $20,000 of computer and photo equipment to the $6 an hour baggage throwers or the slacker FedEx/UPS/Purolator guy who just might leave it on some doorstep or in some apartment building lobby someplace.
posted by Mitheral at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2006


To answer your first question, the theory being that there are a large number of "safe" passengers and a few number of "terrorists" you shouldn't invest equal time in examining "all" passengers. If you could filter out "safe" passengers then there are fewer unknown passengers who need to be screened and every one of these can probably then be subjected to a full cavity search.

Off topic, but this is a perfect example of the fallacy of a "no-fly" (or "yes-fly") list. How many of the 9/11 hijackers would have shown up on a no-fly list? (answer: none.) The fact is, terrorists don't wear signs on their chests that identify them as such, and if you make a way for some people to be subject to less scrutiny than others, terrorists will find a way to get into that "less scrutiny" group.

Security is like a chain; it's only as strong as the weakest link. And yes- or no-fly lists are a weak link indeed.

That said, this program doesn't seem to be a weak link so much as it is a way to speed up the queue process for those for whom it is worth $80 to do so, and - exactly, birdherder - a public beta for a national ID card. If the government were really concerned about making people's flights safer and the process faster, there are steps to be taken, but these are not them.
posted by joshuaconner at 9:06 PM on January 25, 2006


Hey three blind mice, how about having to proove your trustworthiness every time you fly -- just a one minute brainscan. Just because you say you are trustworthy doesn't make it so and you may be trustworthy today, but change next week. Yes-fly lists create an "acclaired" elite based on access and dependence on technology--a dangerous, yet inevitable precedent.
posted by loot001 at 9:29 AM on January 29, 2006


I am not trusting $20,000 of computer and photo equipment to the $6 an hour baggage throwers or the slacker FedEx/UPS/Purolator guy who just might leave it on some doorstep or in some apartment building lobby someplace.
Most people don't carry $20,000 worth of equipment, hence the "rare, special situation" disclaimer I wrote. My point is that we need to, and have the ability to, limit baggage until our capacity to check it is 100%. Your paranoid unwillingness to hire a sufficiently trustworthy courier is subsidized by the airlines' unwillingness to check every bag.
posted by Skwirl at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2006


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