"Clear" Registered Traveller Program

CLEAR, a private service that prescreens travelers for a $100 annual fee, has come to Kennedy International Airport. To benefit from the Clear Registered Traveler program, which is run by Verified Identity Pass, a person must fill out an application, let the service capture his fingerprints and iris pattern and present two forms of identification. If the traveler passes a federal background check, he will be given a card that allows him to pass quickly through airport security.

Sounds great, but it’s actually two ideas rolled into one: one clever and one very stupid.

The clever idea is allowing people to pay for better service. Clear has been in operation at the Orlando International Airport since July 2005, and members have passed through security checkpoints faster simply because they are segregated from less experienced fliers who don’t know the drill.

Now, at Kennedy and other airports, Clear is purchasing and installing federally approved technology that will further speed up the screening process: scanners that will eliminate the need for cardholders to remove their shoes, and explosives detection machines that will eliminate the need for them to remove their coats and jackets. There are also Clear employees at the checkpoints who, although they can’t screen cardholders, can guide members through the security process. Clear has not yet paid airports for an extra security lane or the Transportation Security Administration for extra screening personnel, but both of those enhancements are on the table if enough people sign up.

I fly more than 200,000 miles per year and would gladly pay $100 a year to get through airport security faster.

But the stupid idea is the background check. When first conceived, traveler programs focused on prescreening. Pre-approved travelers would pass through security checkpoints with less screening, and resources would be focused on everyone else. Sounds reasonable, but it would leave us all less safe.

Background checks are based on the dangerous myth that we can somehow pick terrorists out of a crowd if we could identify everyone. Unfortunately, there isn’t any terrorist profile that prescreening can uncover. Timothy McVeigh could probably have gotten one of these cards. So could have Eric Rudolph, the pipe bomber at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. There isn’t even a good list of known terrorists to check people against; the government list used by the airlines has been the butt of jokes for years.

And have we forgotten how prevalent identity theft is these days? If you think having a criminal impersonating you to your bank is bad, wait until they start impersonating you to the Transportation Security Administration.

The truth is that whenever you create two paths through security—a high-security path and a low-security path—you have to assume that the bad guys will find a way to exploit the low-security path. It may be counterintuitive, but we are all safer if the people chosen for more thorough screening are truly random and not based on an error-filled database or a cursory background check.

I think of Clear as a $100 service that tells terrorists if the F.B.I. is on to them or not. Why in the world would we provide terrorists with this ability?

We don’t have to. Clear cardholders are not scrutinized less when they go through checkpoints, they’re scrutinized more efficiently. So why not get rid of the background checks altogether? We should all be able to walk into the airport, pay $10, and use the Clear lanes when it’s worth it to us.

This essay originally appeared in The New York Times.

I’ve already written about trusted traveller programs, and have also written about Verified Identity Card, Inc., the company that runs Clear. Note that these two essays were from 2004. This is the Clear website, and this is the website for Verified Identity Pass, Inc.

Posted on January 22, 2007 at 7:11 AM55 Comments


Anonymous January 22, 2007 8:22 AM

People should also have the option to fly terrorist friendly airlines that avoid screening processes put in post 9-11. The passengers on that airline would be warned up front if they didn’t keep control of the plane during a hijacking attempt, that it would be shot down.
Those flights should be less expensive and you don’t have to get felt up by TSA goons when flying.

Bruce Schneier January 22, 2007 8:35 AM

Airlines are not allowed to compete on security. I, half as a joke, propose that people be allowed to fly on Less Secure Airways” “we get you there anonymously with less searching.” Or More Secure Airways: “we run a background check on everybody.”

But, alas, government mandates uniform security for everybody.

Peter Wilson January 22, 2007 8:35 AM

Your idea for a $10 fast lane is truely aweful. It is an incentive for screeners to provide a really bad service so that they can collect from frustrated travellers
with connections to make.

Bruce Schneier January 22, 2007 8:38 AM

“Your idea for a $10 fast lane is truely aweful. It is an incentive for screeners to provide a really bad service so that they can collect from frustrated travellers
with connections to make.”

Um, no. You don’t get screened when you’re making a connection…except in the rare case when you have to go out of security and back in.

And, in general, a more expensive service is only an incentive for the seller to skimp on the cheaper service if they receive the money for both. You can align the incentives so that the conflict you describe doesn’t happen.

Or does the existence of expensive restaurants incent McDonald’s to make their food as lousy as possible?

David January 22, 2007 8:51 AM


Last time I traveled from Europe (pre-911) we got screened once we came into the US, and then got on our connecting flight to another city.

He’s right, but only for some flights.

aburt January 22, 2007 8:51 AM

Bruce, you assume there’s not an unknown third path: Known terrorist suspects who apply get their Clear card as if they passed the background checks BUT it’s marked internally to signal the screeners to do an especially thorough job. As you note, Clear lanes don’t do less screening, thus they could in fact do higher levels of screening more efficiently too.

Thud January 22, 2007 9:15 AM

Aburt, maybe the terrorists have thought about that, too, and will find a way to use that cunning strategy against us!

I think the best possible improvement we could make is better training and better employee selection. Contradictory, unclear, and apparently capricious rules coupled with little to no oversight has undoubtedly contributed to the program’s inefficiency. I don’t see how a protracted argument over a needlepoint needle, minuscule GI-Joe handgun toy, nail clippers with files, etc. adds to the security anyway — it just provides more things to focus on, and more things to be distracted about.

Nicholas Weaver January 22, 2007 9:21 AM

You get rescreen on international to domestic connections simply because you are reunited and then parted with your checked baggage, which can have all sorts of things (like, oh, say, firearms) which are not allowed in carryon baggage.

Hadi Hariri January 22, 2007 9:23 AM

I agree it’s a stupid idea, since as you say, it only provides people that pose potential threats to get clearance easier and avoid harrasment. However, I assume that one of the reasons this works is that the demand is low (at least currently), irrelevant of the cost and how it’s being subsidised. As soon as you open this up to the general public (make them aware it exists), people will either use the fast lane and pay the $10 or sign up for a year, thus creating a new bottleneck.

FP January 22, 2007 9:31 AM

This service is once again based on the assumption that certain people are too dangerous to be let onto an aircraft (or at least without extra search), but not guilty enough to be arrested.

@aburt: “marked internally”

And you don’t think that criminals are smart enough to make some test runs with their Clear card, and will notice if they are subject to extra screening every time?

@David: “got screened once we came into the US”

That is standard procedure. The US doesn’t trust any foreign security checks and insists on checking you again. (That is despite mandating the level of screening that has to occur at the point of origin for US-bound flights. At least in Frankfurt, Germany, all US-bound flights leave from separate gates.) Note that the UK is the same. You have to pass TWO checkpoints to board a UK-bound flight from continental Europe, and then you’re checked again on your way to the connecting flight.

Aaron January 22, 2007 9:32 AM

Personally, I think the airlines should be put in charge of providing their own security.

That way, I can choose how much security I think I need. If I’m flying to Omaha, Nebraska, I’m about as worried about a hijacking as I am about nuclear war. I’d choose an airline that gets me through security faster.

Obviously the cost of security would be passed into the cost of buying your plane ticket, forcing airlines to find the most efficient way to provide security without wasting money.

For example: AirScare spends on security like we do now. Their plane ticket to my city costs $1500. AirSmart pays attention and does a more efficient job of it. Their ticket costs $1000. Which airline would you fly? AirScare goes out of business because it can’t respond and provide efficient security.

Let the market play a role instead of making taxpayers fund it.

Carlo Graziani January 22, 2007 9:34 AM

It’s not obvious to me that there isn’t a perverse incentive system built-in here. The idea that Clear Inc. gives their paying customers greater scrutiny than other passengers runs up against the fact that their customers are, well, customers, who believe that they are paying to get through lines faster, rather than to improve global security.

So the question is, at peak travel times, when Clear’s facilities are near or at saturation with customers paying to get out of the scary security lines, will they risk alienating their customers by giving them a proper screening, or will they give in to the temptation of abusing their function by perfunctorily waving their satisfied customers through?

What would their shareholders wish them to do?

Roy January 22, 2007 9:56 AM

Aaron has the right idea. Let the passengers pay for their security, however much, or however little, they like.

AirScare can charge $1500, and WildWildWest can charge $99.95, which is more to my liking.

Aaron January 22, 2007 10:02 AM

The final check on the system can come for the airports, who can deny an airline access if they provide no security at all. I’m sure New York City doesn’t want those airlines, just as I’m sure there are enough people who want to fly to New York City that this will create a market effect as well.

Ian Mason January 22, 2007 10:04 AM

“I think of Clear as a $100 service that tells terrorists if the F.B.I. is on to them or not.”

Or if the FBI/CIA/TSA are smart enough it’s a very effective way for unknown terrorists to bring themselves to their attention. However, past performance by these actors doesn’t instill great confidence in their competence. The CIA are great if you want drugs run somewhere, or a secular democracy turned into a dictatorship that then turns into an oppressive theocracy (Iran) but not if you want warning about a bunch of terrorists about to blow up an iconic building. Similar arguments can be made for the others. Perhaps the job should go to the Secret Service*?

*The most dangerous US general occupation, logging, has an occupational fatality rate of 90.2 per 100,000, the average for the whole US working population is 4 per 100,000. 1 out of 17 US presidents (1901-2001) have been assassinated in the 100 years since the Secret Service took on the presidential protection role, giving an annualized occupational fatality rate of 1000 per 100,000. US currency is the most counterfeited in the world. So perhaps we won’t give the Secret Service the job after all.

aburt January 22, 2007 10:13 AM

Much as security theater annoys me (taking away the more common 4oz bottles of a product that doesn’t come in 3oz but still fits in one’s little baggie — c’mon), it will never “fly” to let airlines compete based on security. The flaw in that logic is not the safety of the passenger willing to risk their own life, or of the airline willing to risk its own capital investment in the aircraft. The flaw is in the unwilling occupants of the buildings that terrorists would wish to steer AirInsecure’s planes into.

Airline security now includes protecting the targets (by preventing planes from hitting them), not just the planes and the passengers. Market forces don’t factor that in.

David Thomas January 22, 2007 10:13 AM

In principle, I like the notion of customers paying for their own security, if we also make airlines liable for any damage caused by lapses therein. One thing to consider, however, is that airport architecture would have to be significantly revamped to allow for this. Multiple gates into one secure area managed by different companies just means that the effective security for all the airlines is at the level of the one that does the worst job, assuming it’s consistant enough that attackers know it does the worst job.

MoreClasses January 22, 2007 10:15 AM

Let’s just call this what it is: A “First Class” service. The same way the airlines (and not just airlines, but many other services, healthcare, etc.) offer better service to those that can afford “a first class seat”.

The problem is, while those with enough money to afford this “first class” privatized security screening service get better service, those that can’t afford to pay, get the “free”, lesser service, security screening provided by the government (i.e. taxpayer subsidized).

While I don’t necessarily disagree with this, after all, it is the “American Way”, I would rather see the government provided security screening service brought to a level where there is no perceived need to provide these different “classes” of security screening service.

Bruce Schneier January 22, 2007 10:18 AM

“Bruce, you assume there’s not an unknown third path: Known terrorist suspects who apply get their Clear card as if they passed the background checks BUT it’s marked internally to signal the screeners to do an especially thorough job.”

Yes, I assume that option is not being implemented.

I think it’s a reasonable assumption. This crowd can’t even get a a no fly list right.

Ulrich Boche January 22, 2007 10:20 AM

I would assume that a passport would have to be used for identification to the program. If you have to worry about identity theft involving US passports, I would think you have more to worry about.


Priit January 22, 2007 10:26 AM

The most stupid idea IMO is to let people “pay for better service”. Just imagine that 90% will pay – who THEN will get faster through security – the ordinary of course, beacuse there will be virtually no one there, beacuse everybody is qued on their “better service desk” 🙂

David January 22, 2007 10:37 AM

@Bruce Schneier
If some airlines were insecure, then 9/11 could occur again by simply taking over the less secure one and then crashing it into innocent victims. It wouldn’t make sense if only some airlines were secure and others not.

Such security id cards sound okay by me. Why not run a background check to weed out the few that might turn out bad. But it shouldn’t mean they get less scrutiny when they pass through the line, they should receive the same screening, thus keeping people secure in the same way. That would avoid giving someone with the pass special security privilege, yet would still get them through lines faster because there would be fewer of them who’d pay and go to the trouble. It would be mostly frequent flyers.

The bigger question is whether this is all “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” or not. Clearly this is the slippery slope, in which people now will pay the government to run background checks on them and hold files and biometrics on us. The government creates a pain, and then relieves that pain by demanding people give up their information “voluntarily” in order to relieve it (sounds a bit like torture).

There used to be a time when you couldn’t be searched by the government unless they had a warrant. Now we have people paying to get searched. Absurd!

FP January 22, 2007 10:49 AM

“Customers paying for their own security.”

That doesn’t work, just like it doesn’t work to have customers pay (or not pay) for airline safety. “We get you there for half the price, because we train our pilots less and only do half the maintenance.”

Airlines in particular have learned that customers always choose price over quality. That’s why we now have to pay $5 for a lousy “snack box.” Because they noticed that customers would rather save $5 on the ticket than using the airline that serves complimentary food.

Customers have a reasonable expectation that certain products are safe, because most customers are not qualified to evaluate safety.

For an example of how “good” the market is at regulating safety, check out the meat industry. “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser has a good overview.

FP January 22, 2007 10:54 AM

@David: “That would still get them through lines faster because there would be fewer of them.”

You are describing existing frequent flier programs. Airlines already have dedicated security checkpoints for their frequent fliers at most airports.

MinOhio January 22, 2007 10:58 AM

Has someone come up with a business model that travelers should have the option of joining a single security provider system and I’ve missed it?

As a frequent flyer am I expected to apply and pay for a program for each airport and/or airline I frequent? For me, this could easily mean applying for programs at a dozen airports or with 3 or more airlines.

The infrastructure/network, security and data store for single provider, high speed verification systems already exist. Its all owned by VISA and MasterCard. I’d pay big bucks for a VISA or MasterCard preferred traveller card. I’d pay more expecting I could simply register once and be able to use a single card to get in the fast lane at any airport.

Think about it… their networks are ubiquitous, secure, support 24/7/365 operations and proven to offer near real-time processing even under heavy volume. What’s not to like?

Joe Buck January 22, 2007 11:02 AM

If you connect through Heathrow, you have to wait in a long line to be re-screened before you catch your connecting flight. This is not done on the Continent. So, if you’re flying to Europe and can’t fly direct, avoid Heathrow at all costs unless you want to stand in a long line for an hour or more.

Evan Murphy January 22, 2007 11:08 AM

“I would rather see the government provided security screening service brought to a level where there is no perceived need to provide these different “classes” of security screening service.”

It won’t happen. It probably can’t happen. At any given level of service, I can one-up you, the government. And since you, the government, have to accept everybody, it’s not particularly hard to beat you. Sure, you’re giving away your “product” for free, but the more people who use it, the less desirable it gets. I could set up a line that’s the same in every respect to a TSA line but charge a $50 entrance fee, and it would be worth the money to some people.

Also, what’s up with “class”? There’s no perceivable barrier to entering or exiting this class—and I believe you’re using the word in a political sense—you suppose will exist. No one who can afford to fly on a semi-regular basis will be totally unable to afford this service; it will be entirely a matter of choice.

David Dyer-Bennet January 22, 2007 11:08 AM

Given the name, how sure are we this isn’t just a Sienolo*ist from operation?

You think the TSA screeners would accept my Minnesota Carry permit as evidence that I’d passed a Federal background check, and let me through faster?

derf January 22, 2007 11:09 AM

@aburt – “Airline security now includes protecting the targets (by preventing planes from hitting them)”

The TSA’s current procedures fail over 90% of the time when tested, and they are usually warned the testing is coming. I humbly suggest that current practices protect no one.

Roy January 22, 2007 11:12 AM

Sixty years ago, hijacking a US airline would have been a sick joke, since a lot of passengers normally carried guns.

When guns were prohibited on airlines, we got D B Cooper, and the rest is history.

Helpless passengers are helpless for a reason. That’s why hijackers always think to bring weapons: they work.

Greg January 22, 2007 11:20 AM

@Joe Buck

Thats funny, I thought Heathrow was the airport of long ques since the birth of comercial flight.

I avoid that airport almost as much as I avoid USA connections.

passing by January 22, 2007 11:42 AM

Half a trillion dollars out of our pockets and
another 10 dollars a pop for every time we need to
get on a plane?

you wouldn’t happen to have stock in these
“security” companies Bruce now would you?

Bill January 22, 2007 12:02 PM

Two points:

First, 9/11 won’t happen again any time soon. Some idiot(s) might try it, but the rest of the passengers won’t allow it.

Second, I’m with Roy. Allowing law-abiding people with the appropriate licence to carry their weapons on flights would pretty much guarantee the first point.

Pat Cahalan January 22, 2007 12:50 PM

@ Roy, Bill

Re: arming passengers

This, or a version of it, has been suggested before. One counterargument that no one has refuted reasonably:


Re: guns on planes

Cops in LA get lots of firearms training. And yet, there are several stories of multiple officers firing multiple rounds at a target ineffectively. I know at least one officer who has a very high pistol rating and yet has missed a hostile target in a 20′ hallway, just about as easy a target as a paper one at a range.

This is why airline pilots shouldn’t carry guns. Even if they’re ex-military, they just don’t practice enough with a gun to make the probability of an effective hit outweigh the disasterous consequences of loose rounds in the cockpit.

Reduce the skill level a few notches, turn your environment into a crowded airplane with lots of panicked passengers, and you’ll wind up with lots of holes in other passengers and the plane. The second, admittedly, may stop the terrorist activity, but probably only by killing everyone on the plane anyway 🙂

Charles January 22, 2007 1:12 PM

There are thousands of people in this country who have undergone various forms of background investigation, but in my opinion, there’s no good way to prove that, and no good reason to centralize that database of cleared people (and plenty of very good reasons not to). And whether or not someone has passed a background check is immaterial, as identities are too easily forged. TSA personnel know less about fake identification than your average bartender. I’ve never seen a TSA official with a blue book to recognize all current driver’s licenses for all 50 states, much less passports for foreign countries. And biometric identification and the necessary databases would be ridiculously cost-prohibitive.

At some airports, some airlines will shuttle their frequent fliers into a separate line where they undergo the exact same security screening (shoes off, laptop out, etc.) But these lines move faster. Why? Because these people fly often enough to remember the rules and before they’re at the checkpoint, all metal objects are off their person, the laptop bag is unzipped, the shoes are untied, and the coats are off. At a grocery store, there’s only a handful of self-checkout lanes, a few more express lanes, and a LOT of standard lines. If airlines could categorize their passengers based on the level of assistance they needed, they could run checkpoints much more efficiently. Test the flyers’ security procedure knowledge, and assign them to a knowledge class. Those who know all the procedures and rules can go to the single line. Those who need assistance will get the line with more staff, who will help them.

Dave Rywall January 22, 2007 1:16 PM



Would be terrorists who are flagged by the system will be given the green light, obviously. When they book a flight, the authorities will be waiting for them at the gate.


But I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a (now-no-longer) brilliant idea along the lines of sending parole violators notifications of winning big prizes and they just arrest ’em when they show up. This will catch stupid terrorists. Not smart ones.

Marc Holt January 22, 2007 3:47 PM

Sorry Bruce, but you have got it wrong. The WHOLE IDEA IS STUPID!

By endorsing this ‘service’ you are actually encouraging fear and helping the terrorists win. It’s time the air authorities stopped cringing and forcing unnecessary ‘security checks’ on travelers.

I am not against reasonable security precautions. A wand scan, and a pat down if it buzzes is fine. But taking off my shoes and clothes? Throwing away liquids I will need for my travels? Putting up with useless delays? No way! I travel by train or road now. Until this stupidity is stopped the airlines have lost me as a passenger.

It’s time responsible journalists started talking about real measures we can take to counter terrorism. How about pointing out that US government policies are causing terrorism? What about comparing the number of road deaths each year to the number of people killed by terrorists? How about home-grown terrorists; anti-abortion bombers, white supremacy and hate groups? These people are much more dangerous than a few ME terrorists, because they are your neighbors and they are out to get you!

How about telling people the TRUTH about terrorism: That it is a scare tactic being used by Big Brother government to subdue a scared populace into accepting even more restrictions on personal freedom.

Stop supporting this insanity and get real Bruce!

Phillip Rhodes January 22, 2007 3:58 PM

So a highly trained, well skilled, professional police officer has missed an “easy” shot from 20′ out. Big deal. How often does he miss that shot is my question. It’s all about probability and one isolated incident doesn’t prove anything, in my mind.

It’s all a moot point anyway though, since no hijacker will ever successfully hijack a plane and fly it into a building again, whether the passengers are armed or not. Now that people are onto the gig and know not to cooperate with hijackers, it’s just not possible. Unless, that is, they can somehow conjure up a way to have the terrorists physically outnumber the passengers.

Pat Cahalan January 22, 2007 4:59 PM

@ Phillip

It’s all about probability

Oh, okay.

If you’re talking about allowing people to carry loaded firearms onto an aircraft, because “armed citizens deter terrorism”, you’re completely discounting all of the failure cases of letting people with guns on a plane.

1400 people were accidentally shot and killed in 1990 (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/publications/ActualCauses/pdf/acd.pdf)

776 people were accidentally shot and killed in 2000

A little research follow-up (left to the reader) will show that death due to accidental use of a firearm is considerably more likely than death due to terrorist activity.

Conclusion: irresponsible use of a firearm is a greater danger than terrorist activity, from a probability standpoint.

I’m not exactly pro-gun-control, but I certainly think it’s a bad idea to encourage people to carry loaded guns in public, let alone carry loaded guns into a pressurized cylinder surrounded by an inimical environment when said cylinder is my sole life support system, especially when (a) most people aren’t properly trained in firearms use (b) many people who are properly trained in firearms use still make mistakes and (c) any martial training instructor worth his or her salt is going to start off telling everyone in their class, “If you’re not fully prepared to use a weapon against your opponent, you’re better off being unarmed because your opponent will take away your weapon and use it against you”.

A minor perusal of this blog will show numerous incidents of normal people being accidentally mis-identified as terrorists.

Encouraging people (whether they be a class of person like “pilots” or just general passengers) to carry loaded guns on a plane is fantastic idiocy unless everyone so armed demonstrates a remarkable level of training and an outstanding ability to remain cool headed in a crisis. Any such screening process is going to be full of errors, leading to Idiots with Guns on a Plane.

Not to mention the fact that if we don’t want terrorists with guns to get on a plane, it’s best to keep both terrorists AND guns off the plane. This way, if we accidentally let a terrorist on a plane, (s)he doesn’t have access to a gun.

Pat Cahalan January 22, 2007 5:25 PM

I should also offer a rebuttal to:

no hijacker will ever successfully hijack a plane and fly it into a building
again, whether the passengers are armed or not.

There has been at least one incident of a hijacking post-9/11 that was accomplished with knives. Assuming that the passengers will always fight back is demonstrably false.

Scott January 22, 2007 9:57 PM

CLEAR in Orlando (was just there today) sort of has their own security line way in the back, but if you walk all the way back there and just use it, none of the TSA people stop you. I guess you’ve just explained to me why — there is no special line for CLEAR users once you get into the security screening area.

Particular Random Guy January 23, 2007 2:40 AM

Paying a fee in order to gain a status called “Clear” sounds awfully like a scientology plot 🙂

Jake January 23, 2007 6:42 AM

“members have passed through security checkpoints faster simply because they are segregated from less experienced fliers who don’t know the drill.”

How is that different from the Elite status lines, e.g. the Elite Access line at Continental’s hubs in Newark/Houston, or the FastTrack lines in Heathrow/Gatwick?

Pat Cahalan January 23, 2007 1:27 PM

@ Sukotto

It was a Cuban hijacking, I don’t remember all the details. There was another thread on this blog about airplane hijackings, someone made the comment “you can’t hijack planes any more, the passengers won’t allow it” and someone else linked to stories of hijackings post-9/11.

Here’s one:


There have been three related to Cuba (from Reference.com as well, the knife one is mentioned here, you can Google for more details):

November 11 2002 A Cuban An-2 aircraft, registration No. CU-C1086, is hijacked. The plane landed at the Pinar del Rio airport before flying to Key West in Florida.

March 19 2003 Six men, some armed with knives, take control of a Cuban state airline plane as it heads to Havana from Cuba’s Isle of Youth. US Air Force fighter jets intercepted the DC-3 plane, run by Cuban state airline Aerotaxi, shortly before it reached Florida late on Wednesday evening. The US jets then escorted the plane to Key West’s airport, where the suspects surrendered without incident.

April 1, 2003 A man carrying two grenades hijacks a Cuban domestic airliner demanding that it fly to the United States, it landed in Havana due to insufficient fuel.

SecurityInnovator January 24, 2007 2:15 PM

Bruce—it seems that the key problem surrounding airport security is devoting more security resources/countermeasures to the highest risks. right now we aren’t able to do it. Checking watch lists to see if people match known terrorists seems like the only current way to even attempt to seperate the needle from the haystack. What if there were ways to test for hostile intent in passengers at the aiport instead of doing background checks? The Isrealis do that by confronting people in the airports that display certain behavior (they don’t rely physical profile since terrorists inevitably break them). Isreal hasn’t had an aviation terrorist event in some time now (20+ years?).

Another problem with the background checks is that, as you’ve pointed out the current way of doing is never going to catch the terrorist that we had no information on to begin with. Is it possible to use social network analysis to help determine how much we trust a passenger. For example, say there is a trusted cluster of people in the US (e.g those who hold Top Secret clearances) that we use as a “seed” cluster of people. Then a search algorithm could see if a new passenger was socially connected to that trusted cluster in any way. If they were, then perhaps we trust that passenger more than another passenger. Trust would be some measure of how far away, from a social network perspective, they were from the trusted cluster.

Another issue is the American desire to make sure their private data is protected and not exploited by an orwellian govt bent on security at any price. Would it make sense to create a 3rd-party non-profit that uses a search algorithm to find personal data on the internet about people when the govt requests it. The govt could only access the extra info when a cyber-grand jury approved of the request.

Utimately, I agree that the background checks are a weak way to search for terrorists, but it may be the only way we have other than old-fashioned intel and police-work at the moment.

Shabtai Shoval January 25, 2007 6:56 AM

There is a way to check poeple and make sure that they are not terrorist – it called Hemna behavior pattern recogntion and it is been developed into a product name Cogito1002. It actualy an automated polygraph and within 5 minutes give an 95% evaluation of the threat. It has been tested by the TSA and Israeli security agencies.

you can look it up at http://www.suspectdetection.com

Dror January 27, 2007 6:44 AM


When I’ve flown from Oslo to Tel Aviv last summer, by Lufthansa, in the Frankfurt connection everyone had the most thorough exam I ever had, including a dozen airports in the US. The examination was so long the flight had to be postponed for about an hour.
This was after we got checked in Oslo, and have not seen the luggage until we reached Israel.
It seems like a very good place for such companies to make money at the expense of hurrying passengers.

Brian Markey April 3, 2007 8:40 PM

Marc Holt is on the money. Well, almost.

He’s right that terrorism is a BB scare tactic, but he forgot to say that it’s not that US policies that cause terrorism, but that terrorism is cultivated by CIA, MI6 Mossad, NSA, FBI and used to further their ends. 9/11 was no different. Programs like the Orlwellianly named ‘clear’ traveler one are Brave New World ice breakers to get you used to retina scans and fingerprinting for everyday activities. They actually got some idiots to pay to give up their biometric info!

Get ready, Nazi Germany is coming soon to an airport near you.

borodave July 20, 2007 8:50 AM

This whole thread is about people wanting to get through security checkpoints more quickly. First, the TSA needs to revamp their silly rules about shampoo, fingernail clippers, and lighters; and searching lil’ ol’ ladies and children. The basic rules are near-idiotic. Profiling should be the first line of defense; eg thoroughly search any young Yemeni. Leave senior citizens alone and don’t worry about shampoo and small pen knives. Remember, cockpit doors are locked and inaccessible.

Ilan Goldstein February 19, 2009 3:44 PM

I was very disappointed to learn after signing up with clear that they dont bother to man their booth at busy kennedy airport after 9pm.

Rather the staff pack up and goes home to get some beauty sleep.

I wonder why this is not disclosed in advance before customers shell out money for the program.

Please comment if you have had this problem in other airports with clear.


Jake June 25, 2009 2:53 PM

to extend the “$10 lane” further, have three total lanes.

one free.

one at $10.

then have one at, say, $200. High enough that there will be an average line length less than 1 – but not quite so high that the only people for whom it makes business sense already have private jets. Though I do not know what the exact dollar amount is, I’m sure such a price point exists.

Chris June 25, 2009 5:45 PM

I’m trying to not travel until they come up with the same transporter technology found on the Starship Enterprise.

Seriously though… airline travel is horrible these days, partly because of the screening, but more because of the cost cutting measures by the airlines.

Way past the time to think about using internet conferencing technology instead of traveling.

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