Investment group wants to revive Registered Traveler

Program has no security benefit, TSA official said

An investment group is trying to revive the Transportation Security Administration’s troubled Registered Traveler program that abruptly shut down in June when its largest private sponsor pulled the plug. TSA, once a co-sponsor, has reduced its involvement in the program during the the last year.

Registered Traveler is a "trusted traveler" program that offers expedited service in designated airport security lanes to passengers who enroll in advance, provide a fingerprint, pay a fee and undergo a background check. TSA was the co-sponsor from 2005 to 2008 and continues to set requirements for the program.

On June 22, Verified Identity Pass, the largest vendor providing services to the program, stopped operating at the 20 airports where it ran  designated lanes. The company said it was offering no refunds to its nearly 200,000 enrollees because of its financial condition.

The TSA conducted Registered Traveler as a pilot project from 2005 to 2008, and then concluded it did not provide additional security benefits, John Sammon, assistant administrator for transportation sector network management at TSA, said at a hearing held Sept. by the House Homeland Security Committee's Transportation Security Subcommittee.

TSA has allowed Registered Traveler to continue as a private sector program and is encouraging interested vendors to” continue to identity and implement concepts that will provide registered travelers a benefit,” Sammon also said.

Meanwhile, an investment group wants to bring the program back to life. Alison Townley, principal of the investment firm of Henry Inc., said at the hearing that the company has signed a letter of intent with former Registered Traveler operator Verified Identity Pass Inc. and Morgan Stanley, Verified’s senior lender, to purchase certain assets and liabilities associated with the program.

Henry intends to revive the Clear program, Verified’s name for its Registered Traveler program, Townley said.

“My partners and I strongly believe that the new Clear will become a successful business, because our marketing and technology expertise and ideas will effectively build on the progress made by Clear to date to meet a very real and often expressed consumer need for air-travel convenience,” Townley said.

Henry Inc. would need to be approved by the TSA as the operator for the program. Additional information was not immediately available about the company, and a search of Google and Yahoo did not turn up any information.

Assuming TSA agrees, Townley said the new owners would accept the personal information from the existing Clear enrollees only with the enrollees’ consent. Otherwise, the data will be destroyed. Members of the House committee had raised concerns about the disposition of the personal information held by Verified Identity Pass when it shut down.

Also at the hearing, Fred Fischer, managing partner for FLO Corp., another operator of Registered Traveler who also suspended operations after Verified shut down, said his company has obtained financing for 1,000 enrollment locations and intends to revive Registered Traveler in 30 days.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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