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8/7/2009
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TSA OKs Biometric Security For Flight Crews

The stage is set for a Transportation Security Administration pilot program that accelerates flight crew security screening in airports.

The Transportation Security Administration has approved standards for a new security program that sets the stage for nationwide expansion of a program that will use biometric identifiers to verify flight crew members.

The system, called CrewPASS (short for Crew Personnel Advanced Screening System), allows flight crew members who opt into the program to move quickly through security checkpoints by checking biometric credentials, an airline-issued ID, and another form of identification against a database of airline employees that includes pictures of employees for further verification.

Airline security being what it is after 9/11, some flight crew members will be pulled aside for random screening even after going through CrewPASS, but the system should accelerate crew members through security.

Currently, airline crew members have to go through the same process as airline passengers, though they can often be observed being taken to the front of long passenger security lines.

CrewPASS was created by the Air Line Pilots Association International in 2007 and further developed in conjunction with the TSA, partially in response to a law passed to fulfill the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Provisions in that law required that the TSA create plans for an ID management system for flight crew members that would expedite their security checkpoint process.

Pilot CrewPASS programs are currently in place at airports in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Columbia, S.C., with contractor ARINC.

Though privacy worries have long been cause for pause, biometrics are increasingly being used and considered by government agencies as another tier of security.

Sen. Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.), recently said he would be introducing a bill that would require all government contractors to use biometric identifiers as part of E-Verify, a forthcoming system that aims to prevent undocumented immigrants from doing government work.

In a panel discussion earlier this week, Department of Defense officials lauded the importance of biometrics in military security.


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