Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Feel Good Security

According to this article, Delta Airlines will add registered traveler kiosks from Clear at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, as well as LAX.

That's fine, although this really won't do anything to make us safer.

The Registered Traveler program is a scam, although in the spirit of fairness I should mention that I do not believe that Verified Identity Pass employees consciously realize this. If you've been in a US airport lately, you've probably seen them; the way the Clear program works is you give them your driver's license number, previous home addresses going back five years, SSN or alien registration number, and a valid credit card. They then run your info past... somebody, and then do... something, and, after taking your picture and biometric data (fingerprints and iris images, for what it's worth) and taking your picture and noting your two forms of federal ID, they give you futuristicy little card. All this for a hundred bucks a year, plus a $28 bribe to the TSA.

Now, anyone who's been stuck in security screening purgatory would gladly shell out $128 to get through it a little quicker. But that presuposes that there is some way to tell someone is going to be a terrorist before they actually, you know, terrorize somebody. And that doesn't work. Would they have caught Mohammed Atta with routine security screening, or even the kind of screening they do now? I doubt it. I've thought of a trillion ways to get past airport security just in the time I've spent on security lines. The only things that have made air travel safer since 9/11 is, as Schneier says, 1) locking cockpit doors and 2) the understanding of ordinary passengers that they may have to be prepared to fight back (which is what stopped Reid, after all).

Everything else is security theater. Clear isn't about making us safer. Clear is about making lines shorter.


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