Registered Traveler hit by closure of express lanes
Program's largest private operator abruptly shuts down operations
The largest private operator of Registered Traveler services at U.S. airports has abruptly shut down operations. The program was operated in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration.
Verified Identity Pass Inc. announced June 22 on its Web site that it was ceasing operations of its designated Registered Traveler lanes, effective immediately. It operated the “clear” designated lanes offering enrolled travelers expedited access to security processing at 18 airports.
Verified Identity Pass said it was offering no refunds because of the company’s financial condition. About 260,000 people had paid annual fees of $80 or more to enroll in the company's Clear program.
Registered Traveler, which has operated since 2005, is one of the Homeland Security Department’s largest public-private partnerships. The program is jointly operated by vendors and the Transportation Security Administration. Verified Identity Pass was by far the largest vendor in the program.
Enrollees in Registered Traveler undergo a vetting process, provide a fingerprint and receive a biometric identity card when they sign up. Once at the airport, the enrollee must verify his or her fingerprint to use the designated lanes and avoid long lines.
The program suffered a setback last year when TSA announced it was no longer performing the background security checks on Registered Traveler applicants. Also, in August 2008, Verified Identity Pass was required to briefly suspend enrollments after the theft of a laptop containing sensitive personal information.
TSA officials declined to comment on the Verified Identity Pass closure.
However, legislation passed by the House of Representatives on June 4 would reauthorize the TSA and would strengthen TSA’s role in the Registered Traveler program. Under a provision in the bill, TSA would be required to consider how Registered Traveler can be integrated into "risk-based aviation security operations," according to the National Business Travel Association. TSA also must reinstate security threat assessments and background checks for Registered Traveler participants and review screening protocols under the bill.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.