State begins work on PASS cards

The State Department is planning a procurement to begin the process of issuing millions of PASS cards, which U.S. citizens crossing the border will be able to use in lieu of passports.


PASS stands for People Access Security Service. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 requires that people crossing the border, including citizens, provide proper identification as of Jan. 1, 2008.


Under current policy, millions of citizens enter the country every year with no documents at all, officials said.


'We do plan to issue the card this year,' said State spokeswoman Laura Tischler, adding that the process likely would involve establishing contracts with vendors to provide the cards. Issuing the cards will involve an enrollment process and then the production of secure cards.


'RFID [radio frequency identification device] technology is being considered in the discussions we are having with DHS about the card,' Tischler said. 'Having been through the process of developing the E-Passport [which includes secure RFID technology], we are bringing the experience gained in that process to the PASS program.'


Jim Williams, director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, told a recent meeting of the Industry Advisory Council that State and DHS soon would agree on developing the PASS card technology plan. He said he expects that State will issue a request for proposals by the end of the year for card production.


RFID is one subject of debate. 'There are concerns [at State] about using RFID on a mandatory basis,' Williams said. 'We think it [RFID] is the right answer. State has concerns about RFID'that the privacy [advocates] may not like it.'


Williams strongly endorsed RFID technology, noting that it allows U.S. Visit systems to quickly record a traveler's entry and conduct a quick watch list check.
'If I could push a button, there would be RFID technology at every land border crossing,' he said.

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