14 January 2005
AMSTERDAM — Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has been chosen to test a new biometric passport which will allow frequent flyers to JKF in New York to get through security checks fast.
The pilot project was announced during a visit to Amsterdam by outgoing US homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, on Thursday.
Ridge was appointed to the newly-created post in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York on 11 September 2001. Since then, airport security around the world — and in the US in particular — has been significantly tightened, leading to long delays in boarding and disembarkment
Ridge acknowledged that passengers often resent the stringent procedures — hence the testing of the biometric card.
Under the new scheme, frequent flyers between Schiphol and JFK — judged to be a low security risk — can volunteer to have fingerprints and other biometric information stored on a special card.
Passengers with the card will be able to avoid long queues at Schiphol by availing of a special fast-check kiosk. If successful, the US authorities hope other European countries will seek to apply the scheme. It is based on systems used on domestic flights in the US.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper suggested in tongue-in-cheek fashion that the choice of Schiphol to pilot the scheme might be a sign White House needed a geography lesson on Europe.
“Most maps show Amsterdam five degrees of longitude east of London’s Heathrow, which handles most transatlantic flights,” the paper said.
US officials say Schiphol was chosen because of its experience with biometric technology.
Speaking for the Dutch side during Ridge’s visit, Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk said no one should be concerned the scheme would lead to “Big-Brother practices”.
“The pilot scheme is totally voluntary. It has been shown that the vast majority of people have no difficulty with surrendering a little bit of privacy if that makes the journey a little bit easier,” she said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news, Schiphol, JFK Airport