Administration presses its case for the PASS card

Talking points highlight security concerns

The administration and other proponents of new border credential requirements circulated talking points to quash changes the Senate has adopted for its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, set for debate in a conference committee on the Homeland Security Department appropriations bill.

The talking points go far beyond the Office of Management and Budget's statement on the matter. They covered WHTI's technology aspects as well as other issues:
  • The proposed delay in the People Access Security Service card project that falls under WHTI would perpetuate a security loophole highlighted by the 9/11 Commission, the administration said. 'Furthermore, the amendment mandates a [PASS card technology] certification process that may indefinitely delay the implementation of even interim documentation requirements, a completely unacceptable result.'

  • The administration rejected the Senate proposal to delay WHTI's air and sea phase until the PASS card meets all of the technology certification criteria the Senate has adopted. The criteria include the recommended use of the International Standards Organization 14443 standard for the card's radio frequency identification device.

    'Travelers are much more accustomed to using passports [as required in WHTI's initial, sea and air phase] when flying or taking a cruise, and thus we have an opportunity to close one part of the loophole sooner. This provides a security benefit that we should not discard.'

  • The administration condemned a proposal for a demonstration program under which state driver's licenses would be valid for re-entry into the country. 'Determination of citizenship is a federal function and responsibility,' the administration said. The Senate amendment would generate confusion resulting from varying types of driver's licenses, and fail because there is no national registry of citizens, the administration said.

  • The talking points condemned proposals to establish a cap on the cost of the PASS card. The proposed cap would force State to shift some PASS-card costs to purchasers of other documents or to seek appropriated funds to subsidize PASS card production, the administration said.

  • 'The amendment also has the potential to confuse the traveling public about what types of documents can be used for sea travel and what compliance standards will be in effect as early as this winter.' WHTI now calls for citizens and others returning from Latin America, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a passport or other acceptable, existing travel credential beginning on Dec. 31.

  • 'While the amendment appears to address the concerns of border constituencies, it will actually detract from the administration's efforts to improve border security,' according to the talking points.

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