Union Tribune

September 26, 2002 

DOMESTIC SECURITY 
L.A. could be test site for new port ID cards


By TOBY ECKERT 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON Federal officials want to test a new
identification card for airport and seaport workers in the Los
Angeles area, if they can get Congress to restore funding for the
program.

Los Angeles International Airport and the Port of Long Beach
are being considered for the test, said Robert L. Johnson, a
spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

"That's where we have proposed piloting the program. Until we
have congressional approval, it remains to be seen whether that
is where we will try it," he said.

The cards would contain difficult-to-forge "biometric" identifiers,
like fingerprints, and be issued to workers with access to secure
areas of transportation facilities, said agency spokeswoman
Chris Rhatigan. 

The workers would undergo background checks before they are
issued the IDs.

James Loy, head of the agency, has said the ID program could
serve as a model for a separate "trusted traveler" program to
speed frequent fliers through airport security.

The agency would have to get congressional approval as well as
funding for the test ID program, which would also be tried in
Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., Rhatigan said.

Congress barred the agency from spending money on the ID
program in a supplemental budget bill for fiscal 2002 that was
approved in July. The agency is hoping lawmakers will restore
the funding for fiscal 2003, which starts Oct. 1.

Officials at LAX and the Port of Long Beach said they knew little
about the proposal.

"We're just kind of learning about it," said LAX spokesman Tom
Winfrey. "We're glad to cooperate with the program."

The Port of Los Angeles is moving forward with an ID system of
its own that would apply to 25,000 workers there.

The agency started considering a uniform ID for transportation
workers early this year. It is part of a larger overhaul of
transportation security arising from the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks.

Federal officials raised concerns about the relatively open
access to U.S. seaports, which were seen as vulnerable to a
terrorist attack or the smuggling of nuclear, chemical or
biological weapons. They also were disturbed by the large
number of people who obtained fraudulent commercial driver's
licenses, including ones that allowed the transport of hazardous
materials.

But Congress quietly put the brakes on the program in July,
apparently because a key lawmaker wanted to be sure the
agency considered an identification technology made by a
company in his state.

The transportation industry has generally embraced the idea of
a uniform ID. Unions have voiced opposition.