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Airlines to unveil smart ID card plan

The airline industry will unveil details of its plan for a national transportation smart card on Monday, aiming to improve security and reduce the time passengers spend waiting in lines.

The industry is going forward despite signs that the White House opposes the plan.

The cards would store the passengers' fingerprints and personal flight histories. "They are not the perfect solution but are a big step," said James K. Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association.

Coyne will present the new card _ called SkyD _ in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington. He said he has been in discussions with the White House, CIA, FBI and Federal Aviation Administration. Coyne said the FAA gave him the go-ahead to speed up the project.

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday "there are no plans for anything of that type. Obviously, the administration is going to keep an open mind about any productive or positive ideas. Based on what we know now, that (the smart-card plan) does not fit that category."

Corporate giants Lockheed Martin and Microsoft helped develop the card and plan to help implement it. Airlines could have the card in operation as early as next spring.

Coyne said airline security has wrongly focused on screening "things" such as carry-on bags and passengers' clothes. He called airport security the "ultimate example of looking for a needle in the hay."

"The IDs presented now are very unreliable," Coyne said. "The risk is people."

Security and technology experts have expressed concern over implementation of the cards _ the possibility of counterfeits and the impossibility of distinguishing with 100 percent accuracy who is trustworthy and who is not.

By allowing trustworthy travelers to have faster check-ins, the cards would allow security at airports to concentrate on travelers who aren't registered cardholders.

The SkyD system is intended to be voluntary, but a top information systems consultant says the idea of offering voluntary cards might be deceptive.

"The discriminatory treatment that non-card-holders would surely undergo makes this a slippery slope," said Peter Neumann, principal scientist at Computer Science Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif.

"The cards would likely become effectively mandatory for everyone in short order, and subject to the same abuses as other more conventional Ids."

Richard Clarke, President Bush's adviser on cyber space security, also dismissed the plan.