Defying one fatal blow after another the (insert here: Private-Company-slash-Transportation Security Administration’s) Registered Traveler (RT) program has managed to survive in a way that would make Lazarus envious. After a federal court prohibited Verified Identity Pass/Clear, now out of the RT business, from selling the personal data of its participants, there seemed to be no resurrecting RT. Yet the House Homeland Security Committee, in a bi-partisan letter – truly an act of God –  criticized TSA ‘s decision to destroy the data it collected on RT participants. The Committee demanded TSA hold onto the data in the event RT one day gets to feeling better and rises again. Congress’ love affair with this program has saved it from the death cart yet again.

This love – or perverse Thanatology – motivated the House to pass the strongest language to date urging a trusted traveler program (Section 233, HR 2200). But still not mandating it. A mandate would look too much like ownership.

RT’s flaws will, and should, always inhibit outright ownership. Although rendered obsolete by an improved passenger checkpoint design, unnecessary by an experienced workforce and travelers, and insecure by ‘clean skins’, RT’s life line, and presumably biggest beneficiaries, continue to deflect the Grim Reaper’s looming scythe.

No pulling the plug on this dying Grandma. Yet a ‘death panel’ would certainly be a most sympatric act.

Once and for all a decision needs to be made. One too many sequels of “Weekend at Bernie’s” have already been made. Rather than having the government or a private company sink any more money, time and resources into this patient, an honest prognosis needs to be given by those who will be held responsible if there is a security failure: the Department of Homeland Security.

And the decision needs to be made publicly for the sake of informing travelers and would-be participants. If clearly explained there won’t be any surprises as to why this program, in its current decaying form that only Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead”) could love, deserves a death sentence.

Jeff Sural serves as counsel in the Legislative & Public Policy Group at Alston & Bird, LLP. He will focus his practice on homeland security and transportation matters on Capitol Hill and in federal government agencies. Read More