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Scan eyes { November 14 2002 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active),0,6695224.story?coll=ny%2Dap%2Dregional%2Dwire,0,6695224.story?coll=ny%2Dap%2Dregional%2Dwire

JFK terminal only in nation to screen employees' eyes

Associated Press Writer

November 14, 2002, 4:26 PM EST

NEW YORK -- Elizabeth Coletta has to do a little more than swipe her identification card to get into secure areas at John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Swiss International Airlines manager now looks straight into a scanner that reads her iris to make sure she is who her card says she is.

Kennedy has been testing iris scanning on about 300 employees working at Terminal 4 for the last two months. It's the only airport in the nation to use the technology with employees to prevent security breaches.

John DeFelice, the international terminal's security director, said the technology prevents employees from giving their ID cards to someone else.

"I can give my card, but I can't give my eyes to anyone," he said.

For now, the program is not mandatory. But DeFelice said he expects the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the nation's travel systems, to require some sort of mandatory biometric screening for the terminal's 1,500 employees within the year.

A TSA spokeswoman didn't immediately return a telephone call Thursday.

The terminal is managed by a private company, a consortium that includes the operators of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark (N.J.) Liberty airports, is testing different employee security systems but hasn't made a decision on iris scanning.

The $2,000 iris scanner and the $15,000 door that bars entry into a secure area has been installed at the Terminal 4 customs area leading to the airport's tarmac. The employees using the system range from airline managers to security guards who need close access to planes on the ground.

The scanner stores 247 traits of a person's iris into a computer and on his or her ID card's magnetic strip. Terminal officials said they believe the iris scanning technique is even more specific than fingerprinting, because that technique only checks for 85 traits.

After swiping their cards, workers peer into the scanner for about 10 to 15 seconds, until the door clicks open. The system works with contact lenses and eyeglasses but not with sunglasses.

If the scanner fails to match an employee's eyes and card, an alarm goes off and security guards are dispatched, DeFelice said.

Terminal officials say they're not aware of any employee who failed the iris scan test in other uses at airports in Amsterdam and Charlotte, N.C. No security problem at Kennedy prompted the technology, said John Scanlon, director of the state Office of Public Security.

"This is not a response to a problem," he said. "It's anticipating. It's proactive."

The airport does not plan to make the technology available to passengers, although more than 4,500 frequent fliers have been using the system at Amsterdam's airport for more than a year as a substitute for their passports, said Schiphol USA President Victor van der Chijs.

The Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, in North Carolina, used similar eye technology in 2000 but suspended the system last year.


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Copyright 2002, The Associated Press

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