The Registered Traveler program about to be expanded by the TSA only further exposes the joke is airline security in the US.

The theory behind the Registered Traveler program is that certain individuals can be pre-approved for an expedited security screening at the airport. People who want to participate in the program provide an array of information about themselves to TSA. TSA then screens applicants based on that information, and if the agency approves of an applicant, TSA issues them an ID card that includes some sort of biometric information. People who are approved can take their fancy-schmancy ID card to the airport and move through lightly screened, expedited security lines.

This whole program is really pushed by the airlines because their best customers (business travelers) are really peeved about waiting in long security lines. So, while the airlines don’t want the liability of running the security checkpoints, they do want to push their best customers through the lines faster. Enter Registered Traveler.

Of course, the program will do nothing to enhance the security of air travel. If anything, it will further erode the already negligible benefits of the current airline screening program. The working theory appears to be that only legitimate business travelers will pony up $80 per year, in addition to some information about themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The 9/11 hijackers, for instance, flew cross-country several times in first class to scout the airlines and plan their attacks. It isn’t like they flew from Boston to Nashville a couple of times on Southwest to save a few bucks. Clearly, the terrorists we are fighting in the so-called War on Terror are well funded and are unlikely to be deterred by a lousy $80 fee.

In addition, the 9/11 terrorists had done enough to establish legitimate identites in this country to avoid the kind of screening that Registered Traveler would provide. Remember that some of the 9/11 terrorists even had gone so far as to acquire drivers licenses. Is the cursor screening provided by Registered Traveler really going to dig deep enough to penetrate the shell erected by a determined covert cell?

No, Registered Traveler is just another way for airlines to seperate Us (coach, low fare, low profit travelers) from Them (business and first class travelers). Of course, the whole idea is sold to us as a security measure in the hopes that we’ll just shut-up and take it, like we do so often in this country.