Airport Security: A Trusted Flyers Program?

J. Robert Smith
Thomas E. McNamara, writing in the Los Angeles Times, suggests a couple of sensible approaches to airport security.  One approximates Israeli-style criminal profiling.  The other is to offer flyers a strictly voluntary "Trusted Flyers" program, which could conceivably involve identity cards.  But are even voluntary I.D. cards a good idea?   

McNamara writes:  

We need to deal with as many of the non-terrorists as possible before they arrive at airport checkpoints. A national, voluntary "trusted passenger" program would do that by advance background checks and biometric identity documents, which could be reviewed, renewed or revoked at any time. Privacy and civil liberties could be protected by strong privacy legislation and oversight by an independent board. Costs could be shared by passengers, airports, airlines and governments.

Don't trust Uncle Sam to have more information about you than he has now?  Or Uncle Sam able to one-stop-shop your background?  Uncomfortable giving Washington the power to revoke your I.D. privileges?  Don't participate.

Concerned that a voluntary trusted passenger program is a slippery-slope toward some sort of mandatory program?  Does the government eventually use a voluntary program as precedent to insist on mandatory background and biometric checks - I.D. cards - for all Americans?

Given government's propensity toward mission creep, the fear that Uncle Sam will use a voluntary program as a demonstration project for a mandatory one is well within bounds.  As to an independent board as a firewall to protect Americans' civil liberties, how independent would a board really be?  Or for how long would a board remain independent?

Note that though muted, some of the stronger arguments in defense of TSA's privacy-invading meat-cleaver approach to security screening are coming from big government liberals.  Missouri's Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill's ridiculous "love pats" comment is an indicator (though McCaskill has since backed off her remark).

Liberals, once self-styled champions of civil liberties, are, these days, more and more reflexive advocates of bigger government, regardless.  How many Americans really want the big government camel's nose further under the tent of their individual rights?          

McNamara, whose long service in the nation's foreign and security affairs earns respect, is offering well-intended and constructive alternatives to Uncle Sam's indiscriminate cattle-herding security procedures.  But who really cares to permit Washington the ability to develop a voluntary I.D. program knowing that when it comes to big government, what's voluntary today could well be mandatory tomorrow?

Thomas E. McNamara, writing in the Los Angeles Times, suggests a couple of sensible approaches to airport security.  One approximates Israeli-style criminal profiling.  The other is to offer flyers a strictly voluntary "Trusted Flyers" program, which could conceivably involve identity cards.  But are even voluntary I.D. cards a good idea?   

McNamara writes:  

We need to deal with as many of the non-terrorists as possible before they arrive at airport checkpoints. A national, voluntary "trusted passenger" program would do that by advance background checks and biometric identity documents, which could be reviewed, renewed or revoked at any time. Privacy and civil liberties could be protected by strong privacy legislation and oversight by an independent board. Costs could be shared by passengers, airports, airlines and governments.

Don't trust Uncle Sam to have more information about you than he has now?  Or Uncle Sam able to one-stop-shop your background?  Uncomfortable giving Washington the power to revoke your I.D. privileges?  Don't participate.

Concerned that a voluntary trusted passenger program is a slippery-slope toward some sort of mandatory program?  Does the government eventually use a voluntary program as precedent to insist on mandatory background and biometric checks - I.D. cards - for all Americans?

Given government's propensity toward mission creep, the fear that Uncle Sam will use a voluntary program as a demonstration project for a mandatory one is well within bounds.  As to an independent board as a firewall to protect Americans' civil liberties, how independent would a board really be?  Or for how long would a board remain independent?

Note that though muted, some of the stronger arguments in defense of TSA's privacy-invading meat-cleaver approach to security screening are coming from big government liberals.  Missouri's Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill's ridiculous "love pats" comment is an indicator (though McCaskill has since backed off her remark).

Liberals, once self-styled champions of civil liberties, are, these days, more and more reflexive advocates of bigger government, regardless.  How many Americans really want the big government camel's nose further under the tent of their individual rights?          

McNamara, whose long service in the nation's foreign and security affairs earns respect, is offering well-intended and constructive alternatives to Uncle Sam's indiscriminate cattle-herding security procedures.  But who really cares to permit Washington the ability to develop a voluntary I.D. program knowing that when it comes to big government, what's voluntary today could well be mandatory tomorrow?