TSA ID requirements — security theater not security

by Ned Levi on April 25, 2011

TSA Security by Quinn Dombrowski, http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

Recently, I’ve noticed there are more and more travelers who militantly assert that air travel passengers don’t need to show TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents their IDs under Federal law, in order to fly on a commercial airplane. Many of the claimants characterize TSA as “Gestapo like,” due to their ID requirements being akin to stating “Papers please!”

Whether or not TSA has the authority, under the US Constitution and Federal law, to require air travelers present their ID’s to TSA agents at airport security checkpoints, as a prerequisite to be able to fly, it’s my belief, TSA’s ID regulations are merely more of TSA’s security theater, providing a real “show,” but precious little security for the air traveling public.

Even if TSA doesn’t have the legal authority to require travelers show TSA agents their IDs, there is an ID requirement at the airport which passengers must follow. You’ve got to show your ID to the airline on which you’re flying, if requested. It’s in the airlines’ contract of carriage.

For example, in the US Airways Contract of Carriage, it states, “US Airways may refuse to transport, or remove from any flight, any passenger for the following reasons: … 4. Refusal by a passenger to produce positive identification upon request.”

If you’re flying internationally, the airlines may refuse to transport you for, “Failure of a passenger traveling across any international boundary to possess all valid documents (passports, visas, certificates, etc.) required by the laws of the countries from, over, or into which the passenger will fly.” So, if they ask, you must show the airlines your travel documents, when flying internationally.

When you check in at the ticket counter, and then at the gate to board, you’ve got to show your ID to the ticket or gate agent, if asked. There’s actually some security value in this requirement. Along with scanning the boarding pass at the gate, it helps the airlines to ensure checked-in luggage won’t fly, if the passenger doesn’t fly.

So, why do I think the TSA ID check is just more of its security theater?

TSA states about their ID Requirements for Airport Checkpoints that,

“Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.”

Then, immediately in the next paragraph TSA states,

“We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases.”

So, if you give TSA a “song and a dance” that you lost your IDs, you can give them some other identification information, or maybe even a BJ’s or Costco card, and “act” cooperative, they’ll let you through their checkpoint.

That means that TSA will turn air passengers aside who, on principle, refuse to show their government issued ID, but air travelers, who claim their ID was lost or stolen, who give TSA some information about their “supposed” identity, and “make nice” with TSA agents, will fly.

And, of course, we all know well, that terrorists don’t lie.

Is it me, or doesn’t it seem like the TSA ID requirement has nothing to do with security and everything to do with TSA announcing “We’re in control!”?

Here’s something else to consider. Do minors need to show ID to fly? TSA states, “Minor children (younger than 18) are not required to provide an ID at the airport security checkpoint. They will just need their boarding pass.”

I’m wondering how TSA knows who’s 18 years old or older, versus younger than that. For example, I was shaving before I was 16, yet my brother was probably 24–25 years old before he looked 16. I guess TSA doesn’t think there are any young looking adult or teenage terrorists in the world. Do you think that may be a bit shortsighted?

When I add up TSA’s ID requirement variables,

• That terrorists can lie about not providing ID, “appear” cooperative with TSA, then get a “free pass” through TSA security, as long as they submit to an enhanced pat-down and/or full body scanner, and

• Young looking terrorists don’t have to show an ID at TSA security,

it screams to me that the TSA ID requirements are security theater, like so many of their regulations affecting air travelers, and as implemented by TSA, do little or nothing to enhance the needed security of the air traveling public.

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  • Ron

    TSA=Theatrical Security Agency

    I have been saying it for years, and it never changes. The real changes that the TSA needs to make, they won’t due to political correctness.

  • Cliff Woodrick

    Frankly I believe that the TSA should check IDs and luggage, and carryon bags. I also feel that ALL passenger tickets should be purchased one / two weeks before deparure to do background checks. Yes – I also believe in profiles to dedicate resources to certain individuals. I have written the TSA telling them to insert a chip under my skin after they have completed a background check. I served 26 years in the US Navy and retired as a senior officer with many clearances so the government knows me. I also resent being groped by someone as I have a metal hip and two metal knees so I set off the machines. The TSA wastes about 15 minutes everytime I fly on me which is stupid. To those that talk about privacy – go on line and research yourself and be surprised at how much information is in this cyber world about you. A chip would let me pass thru security and let the TSA check other individuals. Also I would really check ALL workers that enter the airport. Are the baggage handlers checked like the passengers? These people could bring in weapons etc and put them on a plane. I do not know enough about this but do question this aspect of airport security.

    The TSA must hire QUALIFIED individuals. One time, while I was wearing shorts a young TSA person was wanding my knee with it’s scar several times until an older TSA gentleman asked him what was wrong. He told him metal that was inside was OK and apologized to me. Think about how many times a weapon gets pass the TSA checkpoint and is reported by a passenger.

    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

  • Frank

    The 9-11 terrorists were required to show identification to enter this country because, we NEED to know who enters this country! They succeeded in destroying the World Trade Center because of the LACK of SECURITY at the airport. That said, the US GOVT can instantly resource this information via a database if and when needed, we instantly knew who those terrorists were on 9-11 because they were required to show ID upon entering the country.
    As you all know, we now have “home grown” Terrorists sympathetic to the Extremist in the Middle East IN THIS COUNTRY. Showing an ID to board a plane for a domestic flight is one of many SECURITY LAYERS put in place to “reduce” the potential of further aviation incidences.

  • Tim

    Another point on why showing your ID to the TSA is useless, as pointed out by Bruce Schneier: When the TSA agent is looking at your ID and your boarding pass, what tells them you are not allowed to fly? If you are on the “no fly” list or the “needs secondary screening” list, how do they know? By the “SSSSS” on your boarding pass? If so, just print your boarding pass at home–well, save it to your hard drive, open it up with an editing tool like Photoshop, blank out the “SSSS” then print your boarding pass.

    As I have stated before, I think the TSA is making a costly mistake wasting money to determine who is flying and not what is flying. And Ned, you are right–it is not making us any safer.

  • MVFlyer

    I generally agree–the TSA’s actions are more window-dressing than real prevention. However, the deal with IDs, where people are deliberately being obstructive–come on, get real–why not just give it to the agents and get it over with? It’s not invasive, unlike a full body scan and/or pat down; you’ve got to have an ID to fly anyway; and, you risk missing your flight and delaying all those folks behind you. Many things the TSA does may not be of benefit, but this one that isn’t worth arguing about.

  • Marilyn Long

    If the 9/11 terrorists had IDs to board the planes, then simply having and showing IDs really doesn’t make anyone any safer unless the names on the IDs are on a no-fly list which would automatically bump them off a flight and that no-fly list were enforced.

    As for requiring that all people flying must have bought their tickets weeks in advance to allow for background checks, that is not practical for many people who are required by their employers to make trips at a moment’s notice to say nothing of those who need to fly for family emergencies or deaths. I suppose those who do fly at the last minute could be open for greater scrutiny so that the majority who have passed the background checks would not take up so much TSA time.

  • AKFlyer

    I have several government-issued IDs, including a federal employee ID card. Under Bush’s HSPD-12 program, all feds were required to get new ID cards with improved security. New background checks were required in most cases, even for employees like me who had been checked and fingerprinted before starting our federal careers, had worked for Uncle Sam for years, and who do not deal with any sensitive information. Along with the expensive and intrusive background checks (interviews with neighbors, evidence of homosexuality, cohabitation or adultery collected, mental health records demanded), we were all re-fingerprinted, had new photos taken, signed all sorts of documents, and had all our biometric info recorded on RFID chips implanted in the ID cards.

    Now get this: we cannot use the ID cards to fly. “They do not meet minimum TSA security requirements.”

    BTW, I can use my DoD dependent ID card to get through the TSA checkpoint. It is a very old-school card: no magnetic strip or RFID info, a blurry B&W photo, no background check, no fingerprints, no info on my gender (apart from my name), no holographic features, etc. It would be pretty easy to fake one of these — easier than getting a fake DL for under-21 drinking purposes. Security theater, indeed!

  • David

    How do you know if someone is under 18? Make them show their ID – then you’ll know that they won’t need to show their ID !!

  • dcta

    So perhaps someone who may up to “mischief” is on the “no fly” list, but he wants to fly – s/he NEEDS to board a plane. S/he can very simply purchase a ticket using someone else’s name, have that person appear at the airport and check-in, showing his/her ID. Then, said “mischief maker” says “thanks”, takes the boarding pass and proceeds through security….. EXCEPT the TSA Agent who is looking at “mischief maker’s” ID will presumably look him in the face and will look at the boarding pass to determine whether all three match up…..

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    Hi Cliff. Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and comprehensive comment.

    TSA does check all checked-in and carry-on luggage via x-ray and personal by hand examination if they deem it necessary. I’ve personally had my carry-ons check numerous times and my wife has had her checked-in luggage hand inspected once. She’s also had her carry-on checked once by hand. The airlines check your ID or at least they’re supposed to check. The checking against lists and all kinds of information is done via computer when you purchase your ticket.

    The checking of the ID that TSA does is seriously problematical, beyond what I wrote in my column today. Beyond everything else. They have a low level person check your ID to see if it looks real, and checks your name against the boarding pass. If they match that’s it. At that time they don’t check you against any data bases. The TSA person checking IDs is not armed with a computer, but with a magic marker.

    I personally think that a requirement to purchase tickets two or even one week in advance is outrageous. What about flying out for a health emergency, a funeral, to say goodbye to a loved one who’s doctor says “It’s time!”, a business client, etc. I can think of many more reasons to purchase a last minute ticket. What about your flight being canceled and having to buy another ticket, one-way, on another airline. Should you have to drive to your destination across the country or miss the appointment, etc. Moreover, computers can check relevant information in no time.

    And full background checks. I don’t think so.

    As to your individual situation, I sympathize. I can tell you that you’re not alone. I know a person close to me who was a supervisory chemical engineer on our nations greatest secret project. He had about as high a clearance as you could get, yet he’s subject to the same rules as you or I when flying. Moreover, we’ve seen very high officials turn on their country, even military men. I think everyone should go through security, and in fact, I would hope people like you who understand the importance of good security, and all our elected officials should be leading us and showing us the way.

    My wife has an artificial knee. She gets groped too. Frankly, you should resent it. Everyone should resent it. I won’t go through the full body scanner. I’ve written about my extensive safety concerns with them. TSA hasn’t said or written anything which addresses my concerns which I’ve publicly stated. As a result I get groped too, and believe me, I resent it, especially because I know the new enhanced grope procedure adds nothing to our security.

    I am against a chip or pass letting anyone go through security unchecked. I am for expedited checking, but not no checking. I can think of many scenarios where terrorists could force a law abiding citizen to carry a bomb on to a plane.

    I agree that TSA, to date doesn’t check the background of their employees and those employed at the airport nearly well enough. Upon entering the airport employees like baggage handlers are checked in. They should be checked going out too. It would stop lots of thievery.

    TSA should hire qualified individuals, not people I wouldn’t hire to work at a fast food restaurant, but unless they pay better than they do, it’s not going to happen.

    TSA could do security well if that’s what was wanted, but instead we get a show because I believe they thinks it’s more important to look like they are doing their job than actually doing it.

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    MVF, I personally show my ID to TSA when requested. I protest through my pen, as I don’t want to miss my flight and have to pay an exorbitant extra cost to take the next flight if any and if not full.

    I refuse to get in the full body scanners, however, as I’ve seen nothing to convince me they are safe, long term, with repeated exposure.

    That being said, I don’t think that’s the point. The point of the column is that TSA’s ID regulations are all about power and not about security. For example, if their ID check was so important they wouldn’t have poorly trained agents checking the IDs, and would have a computer to check each name against their registry. Their agent has a magic marker to aid her ID checking and some training to spot a fake ID and precious little else.

    TSA’s own ID regulations tell us they aren’t serious about check IDs so why do it at all?

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    Frank, think about all the times since 9/11 that TSA has asked you to show them your ID. Do you have it in your mind? Great. Now tell me, does the TSA agent checking your ID with your boarding pass check for your name on a computer or printed list of any kind? I’ll assume your answer was no, because they don’t. In fact, the person checking your ID is armed solely with a magic marker. TSA’s ID check is a sham. Unless you have a horribly fake ID the check will result in nothing more than a check on your boarding pass, and being sent to the line to get a secondary check if your boarding pass is marked SSSS.

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    MVF, I show my ID to the TSA agent checking it. I agree, it’s not worth arguing about if it makes me miss my flight. Nevertheless, it’s still security theater, not real security.

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    DCTA, personally I think the terrorists are smart enough to show up with great fake IDs which match their tickets.

  • http://mocek.org/ Phil Mocek

    In November of 2009, I arrived at the Albuquerque International Airport with my boarding pass but without any other documentation of my identity. I presented that boarding pass to the security guard at the TSA checkpoint when asked to do so. I used my camera to document what came next. TSA staff called local police, and within a few minutes, I was arrested and put in jail for a day and a half, charged with the usual “contempt of cop” offenses — none of which I had committed.

    Someone tried to erase my recordings while my camera was in the possession of the Albuquerque Aviation Police, but I was able to recover the recording of my arrest, and it was the best evidence available of what happened. On January 21, 2011, in the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, a jury saw through multiple lies by the police, deliberating for an hour before finding me not guilty of any of the four charges.

    For more information about my case, please see the Identity Project’s State of New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek FAQ, my personal blog, and the video of my arrest.

    Defending myself cost nearly $40,000, and I still owe over $25,000 of that. I’d appreciate any donations to my legal defense fund. Made through the 501(c)(3) non-profit I was representing at a conference in Albuquerque, such donations are tax-deductible and in many cases qualify for employer matching funds.

  • Frank

    Ned Levi April 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm
    Frank, think about all the times since 9/11 that TSA has asked you to show them your ID. Do you have it in your mind? Great. Now tell me, does the TSA agent checking your ID with your boarding pass check for your name on a computer or printed list of any kind? I’ll assume your answer was no, because they don’t.
    ===================================================

    I dont require a boarding pass while in UNIFORM and traveling with my ID. But, I am required to have it with me as per company policy and do present it to the TSA each and everytime I travel. They check my ID with a “blue light” (NOT a magic marker) that shows embedded information on the ID to prove its real.

  • Frank
  • Scott

    There is no requirement to have an ID for a domestic flight. None. Zero.

    Any passenger can travel on a domestic flight without an ID, though you will be subject to be groped by a same-sex TSA agent not of your choosing.

    International flights are another story, obviously.

  • Hapgood

    Frank, since you have so much faith and confidence in the TSA, could you please explain to us exactly how a low-level TSA flunkie with a magic marker (or magic blue light) manually comparing a boarding pass against an ID provides ANY security benefit at all? I don’t see how it does, although clearly someone at TSA Headquarters clearly thinks it’s an essential “layer.”

    The flunkie isn’t consulting any computer connected to DHS watch lists, so the “layer” isn’t doing anything to keep “suspicious” people from flying (the accuracy and efficacy of the watch lists is, of course, another matter entirely). The procedure would never have caught t1he 9/11 terrorists, since they were flying under their own names and their IDs presumably matched their boarding passes.

    The only thing it might accomplish is to make a show of hassling anyone whose name on the boarding pass doesn’t match the name on the ID. But each flunkie most likely has his or her own unique and unpredictable tolerance for matches that varies wildly, in typical TSA fashion. But I can’t see how verifying a match between the documents does anything for security. Or even verifying that an ID is “real,” since some of them seem to have no idea how to recognize genuine IDs that aren’t the run-of-the-mill driving licences or passports.

    You’re much smarter than I am, so could you please explain it. Absent such an explanation, I have to conclude that this is just another useless “layer” of security theatre that provides the illusion of security by hassling perfectly innocent people and wasting everyone’s time and money. That seems to be the TSA’s Mission, after all.

    (The TSA links you posted only confirm the TSA’s belief that if they inconsistently inflict a sufficient quantity of pointless intrusive hassles on passengers, it will somehow transform each checkpoint into to an Impregnable Fortress Against Terrorists. In other words, it’s Security Theatre.)

  • Frank

    Seriously, another one of your incessant WHINE FESTS about the TSA. Why do you care, you staycation, from the multiple times you’ve told this board through your rants.
    You’re attitude is exactly what I and many aviation employees have to deal with daily. Electronics DONT interfere with anything, so I’ll argue with the flight attendant about the “unnecessary” policy. During turbulence, you decide that’s a great time to get up, “ignoring” the repeated announcements to stay seated, after all you’ve flown MORE THEN ME. (LOL).
    Point is, and there’s several. There’s people who think the RULES dont apply to them. Secondly, there’s people who think their experts, the internet has given them more knowledge, and incessantly question everything (this internet site survives due to it’s whine-factor).

    So, the TSA wants to know what individuals enter the airport’s SECURED areas? GOOD FOR THEM. Happens in courts all over the country as well. Is that intrusive as well? Cant be the whiney ugly American in the justice system, now can you? But, it’s expected at the airport, and you’ve been doing it for decades now with a short exception right after 9-11 when you were too scared to be belligerent.

    here’s the rules, show your travel documents. Me, I’m off to the beaches of Florida, wanna postcard?

  • Dave Thomson

    The TSA’s motto is “Dominate, Intimidate, Control.” It has nothing to do with security and everything to do with control.

  • http://mocek.org/ Phil Mocek

    Following is what I’ve been able to find out about TSA’s policies regarding airline passenger identification:

    What are the rules concerning airline passenger identification by TSA?

    Although TSA refuses to publish all the rules they require passengers to follow at airport checkpoints, from what we can distill from TSA press releases, heavily-redacted information obtained via FOIA requests, TSA blog posts, and other information they publish on the Web, it’s relatively clear that your boarding pass is all the documentation that’s ever required for domestic flights. It seems that passengers are not required to present documentation of their identities to TSA staff, and that doing so is not a condition of crossing the TSA checkpoint, but rather is an option which allows passengers to cross the checkpoint with a less-thorough search of their belongings and fewer questions to answer.

    TSA doesn’t publish the rules they require us to follow, but the Freedom of Information Act should allow us to see those rules, right?

    TSA’s FOIA officer, Kevin J. Janet, doesn’t seem to think so.

    In June, 2009, I placed a FOIA request for TSA’s Screening Management Standard Operating Procedures Manual, which upon their request, I clarified to mean, “a written description of procedures [TSA's] staff use at airport checkpoints when searching and interrogating people who are stopped by [their] staff at those checkpoints.” I wanted to know how our federal airport security guards are instructed to do their jobs of ensuring compliance with the rules passengers are required to follow in order to avoid having their movement restricted. Nearly 13 months later, after much stalling and repeated reports that my request was undergoing various review processes, my request was denied in full.

    TSA refuses to let us read the rules they require us to follow. So what do we know about their I.D. policies?

    According to a 2008 press release from TSA, TSA’s airport passenger identification policy changed on June 21, 2008, but “showing I.D.” was seemingly not required before and is seemingly not required now.

    Prior to June 21, 2008:

    Before June 21, 2008, the situation seemed to be: In order to proceed to the “secure area” of an airport after being stopped at a TSA barricade, each passenger must submit to a pat-down and search for metallic objects using a hand-held metal detector, along with a hand-searching of any carry-on baggage, unless he presents documentation of his identity (i.e., unless he “shows I.D.”), in which case he must submit only to a search for metallic objects on his person via walk-through metal detector and search of any carry-on baggage using an X-ray machine.

    In other words: back then, showing I.D. simply got you a less-thorough search than you’d otherwise receive.

    Now:

    Beginning June 21, 2008, the situation seems to be: Each passenger still has the option of showing I.D. and participating in the less-thorough searches (walk-through metal detector and X-raying of carry-ons), but the alternative now involves not only being thoroughly searched for dangerous items, but also identifying oneself verbally and participating in an interrogation intended to verify one’s identity (via phone call from Homeland Security headquarters). Chillingly, it seems from the aforementioned TSA press release that this alternative also requires that someone be “cooperative with officers”. What that cooperation entails is not defined.

    Initial reports from TSA indicated that while people who claimed that their government-issued I.D. card was misplaced or stolen would be allowed to take the alternate route through the checkpoint (with the questioning), those who willfully refused to show their papers would be barred from proceeding. It’s unclear whether or not this is still the case, or if it was ever the case, as TSA’s initial press release seems, based on information received from TSA via Freedom of Information Act request, to have been inaccurate.

    Summary of present situation and how to exploit it

    In short, best we can tell, complying with TSA’s “papers, please!” request is not necessary in order to fly domestically, it’s simply a way to avoid the hassle of a thorough search for dangerous items, the hassle of providing convincing information in support of your claim to be who you say you are, and having to cooperate with TSA airport staff in any manner they see fit.

    This is a great system for people who wish to do harm in airports or on airplanes, since getting a falsified identification document (i.e., a “fake I.D.”) is relatively simple, and presentation of one almost guarantees that TSA staff will look at someone with less scrutiny, making it easier for him to take weapons, explosives, or incendiaries past the security checkpoint. Even if TSA could detect such fraud with perfect accuracy, using the Carnival Booth Algorithm, terrorists can probe an identity-based security system like TSA’s by sending a number of people on harmless trips through the system, noting who is flagged for extra searches and who isn’t. Then they can send those who aren’t flagged — people who almost certainly will get through security with a less-thorough search — on terrorist missions.

    Why does TSA want to identify us? What’s wrong with them doing so?

    This isn’t about your safety. It’s about control — a few people’s control over the rest of us.

    The primary reason that TSA wants to know who you are is their desire to restrict people’s movement based on Homeland Security blacklists. As did every government that has imposed totalitarian rules, TSA repeatedly tells us that their freedom-restricting policies are about safety, security, and rooting out subversives. Of course, this policy is really about extra-judicial punishment, allowing our executive branch of government to sidestep our judicial branch and punish someone for any reason or no reason at all. That’s not the way things are supposed to work in the United States. It’s ripe for abuse, and it’s an infringement on our freedom.

  • DCTA

    yes, it is true that the terrorists are smart enough to show up with fake ID – but don’t you agree what I laid out was the original thinking?

    “At that time they don’t check you against any data bases. The TSA person checking IDs is not armed with a computer, but with a magic marker.”

    Presumably this happens in the hours prior to flight – it is why full name and birth date are now recorded into every air reservation and transmitted to the TSA prior to flight.

  • Hapgood

    Frank, you haven’t answered my question. You’ve merely thrown out non-sequiturs worthy of Blogger Bob. Assuming that “the TSA wants to know what individuals enter the airport’s SECURED areas,” just how does a low-level TSA flunkie armed with a magic marker comparing a boarding pass with an ID accomplish this? How does it do ANYTHING to keep terrorists off of airplanes?

    I realize that you would like everyone to have the blind unquestioning faith in the TSA that you appear to have, and to just gratefully accept every poke, prod, rifling, and “papers please” that they demand. It’s easiest for the TSA to screen docile sheep, just as flight attendants would surely prefer flights full of people who dutifully fall asleep the moment they board and remain so until the plane reaches the arrival gate. But I refuse to quietly accept the TSA’s security theatre.

    Note that I am in no way claiming that the rules do not apply to me. I’m only complaining that the rules look STUPID, and seem to be wasting too much of our time, money, and liberty for too little return. I’m merely paying attention to the man behind the curtain, and noticing that the emperor is not only naked but is in serious need of some of the products advertised in e-mails that end up in my spam folder. It is my right to do that, just as it is your right to speak up in defense of the TSA against its many critics.

    As you note, I take only staycations for now. One of the reasons is that discovering fascinating new places in my home region is the only effective way I can protest what I consider unconscionable conduct by the TSA. If more people did that, perhaps the resulting losses might encourage airline executives to use their political clout to bring needed reforms (and sanity) to the TSA. There doesn’t seem to be anything else any of us can do. Not everyone can accept your proposal that we all be good little sheep and just accept everything without complaint because John Pistole tells us it “keeps us safe.”

    That said, I do have some hope (probably irrational, to be sure) that eventually enough people will “whine” and refuse to accept any more of the TSA’s costly intrusive security theatre. So I will continue to “whine” regardless of whether you, Blogger Bob, or John Pistole like it. I’m enjoying my staycations now, being fortunate to live in a place with endless places to explore. I’ll even send you a postcard, since there are plenty of them available around here. But I really don’t want that to be my only option for the rest of my life.

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/ned/ Ned Levi

    Hi DCTA,

    No, I don’t agree with the original thinking because I would think the terrorist would get a great ID which would work against the TSA databases, as it would be for a real person, and they would buy the ticket with that information, and use that ID in front of the TSA agent.

    At least that’s what I’d do, and I don’t think that’s particularly original thinking.

    The real identity checking is being done prior to someone showing up at the airport, or at the time someone is purchasing the ticket at the airport. It’s being done through the ticket purchase identity information entered for the purchase.

    When you get to the TSA agent checking IDs, there is no real ID checking unless the person is a genius at discovering fake IDs. The agent doesn’t even have the ability to check the ID against any TSA lists at that point. Moreover, they are so overburdened much of the time, as at high volume flight check-in times there is usually only one agent checking for more than a 1,000 passengers in an hour, that they can’t do any kind of decent check anyway.

    It’s show. It’s not security, as far as I’m concerned. And the fact that you can get through without having a decent ID, is further proof of the show it really is.

    I do think it might actually provide a little more security if the gate agents were required to see each passenger’s ID and match it to the boarding pass, something which is rarely done these days. (Under the contract of carriage of the airlines, they have the right to see passengers’ IDs or they don’t get to fly.)

    The bottom line is, quite frankly, the whole matter of air transportation security needs to be reevaluated and rethought and implemented anew, and it needs to be based on looking for terrorists, not their tools. That way it can be proactive instead of reactive, and it can actually work by implementation instead of chance and getting lucky.

  • Frank

    Hapgood April 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm
    Frank, you haven’t answered my question. You’ve merely thrown out non-sequiturs worthy of Blogger Bob. Assuming that “the TSA wants to know what individuals enter the airport’s SECURED areas,” just how does a low-level TSA flunkie armed with a magic marker comparing a boarding pass with an ID accomplish this? How does it do ANYTHING to keep terrorists off of airplanes?
    =====================================================
    i think it gives a certain amount of control over who passes through security. This is NOT keeping terrorists off airplanes, never said that. But, in most cases, it allows them to KNOW who’s flying and who’s on the ticket and who’s in the secure area’s of the airport.
    ==================================================
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    As you note, I take only staycations for now. One of the reasons is that discovering fascinating new places in my home region is the only effective way I can protest what I consider unconscionable conduct by the TSA.
    ===================================================

    Funny you should say this. I just got off the E Train from Manhattan. Announcements are made regularly on the subway system of NYC. It says, “personal items are and can be subject to search”. And, I’ve seen them do it. What do you call this? Another form of harrassment? Or a preventative measure in an environment terrorist want to invade?

  • Hapgood

    Frank: “It says, ‘personal items are and can be subject to search’. And, I’ve seen them do it. What do you call this? Another form of harrassment? Or a preventative measure in an environment terrorist want to invade?”

    It’s another form of security theatre, meaning that it’s both another form of harassment and a USELESS “preventative measure.” By your logic, the TSA should have the power to stop anyone in any public place to search their belongings and grope their genitals. That’s because ANY place can be an “environment terrorist[s] want to invade.” The TSA is seeking to expand its authority from airports to train stations. But terrorists could also attack shopping malls, cinemas, theatres, parks, and anywhere else. That’s what makes terrorism so effective, as it’s easy for them to attack anywhere.

    What makes terrorism even more effective is when the enemy (i.e., the US government) spends ever more time and resources on intrusive “security” that uselessly attempts to prevent what cannot be prevented. And in a country that distinguishes itself by its openness and freedom, “security” that continually chips away at that openness and freedom aids terrorists even more by destroying what makes the United States unique in the world. The worst part is that there’s no reason to believe the “security” actually does anything to protect anyone from the terrorist threat. I’ve read the GAO reports, which only bolster my concerns.

    The hassles, restrictions, cost, and loss of freedom the TSA creates are very clear. It’s not clear at all that we’re getting anything for what it’s costing us in dollars, privacy, and liberty. And that’s why I criticize them. You seem to have no trouble with it, presumably because you want to believe that what the TSA does is a useful “preventative measure.” That’s fine, but I see no reason to have the sort of faith you have in it.

    The TSA reminds me too much of those diseases (e.g., SARS, sepsis) where the patient dies not because of the invading microbes but because of an overactive misguided immune system that wreaks havoc in the body while leaving the pathogen untouched. Do you really believe that protecting the United States requires destroying the openness, freedom, and other unique qualities that make the United States worth protecting?

  • Frank

    The hassles, restrictions, cost, and loss of freedom the TSA creates are very clear. It’s not clear at all that we’re getting anything for what it’s costing us in dollars, privacy, and liberty. And that’s why I criticize them. You seem to have no trouble with it, presumably because you want to believe that what the TSA does is a useful “preventative measure.” That’s fine, but I see no reason to have the sort of faith you have in it.
    ====================================================

    @ Hapgood. We certainly OWE IT to these individuals who had more then just their liberty and privacy taken away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2d3K0QuXL24

    so, been crying, being outraged? Continue status quo after 9-11? Allow EVERYONE to march through security with their LIQUIDS, “ANONYMOUS” (no ID’s) TICKETS, SHOES ON, JACKETS ON, LAPTOPS IN CASES, METAL NOT REMOVED….etc…etc. HUH? Because you see no benefit to it?
    What isnt a PREVENTATIVE MEASURE from above? MOST OF THESE HAVE COME FROM SITUATIONS THAT REQUIRED A CHANGE TO PROCEDURES BECAUSE THEY ARE BEING TESTED BY TERRORISTS. You think this govt agency sits around trying to think up unconvenient ways for the (snobby) American traveler to endure? If that were the case, you’d see check-in times increase but they have to keep in mind what is realistic, yet everyone debates what “is” realistic! Scanners? Effective or not? Pat downs? Same thing.
    I’ve had my criticism of the TSA and have even challenged them when I felt they were wrong. But, I’ve been in the industry for over 30 YEARS and overall, dont mind the additional security measures, even to ME, because AIRPORT SECURITY needs to be tight.

  • Hapgood

    Frank, I agree with the need for airport security. And I believe it needs to be EFFECTIVE rather than merely “tight.” Where we apparently disagree is whether it is effective. From what I’ve read in GAO reports, its effectiveness is questionable at best. And from what I’ve read– and observed for myself before I stopped flying– it’s anything but “tight.” It is clearly inconsistent. And it’s clearly inconvenient, costly, and (increasingly) intrusive. But it’s not clearly effective or beneficial. That’s what I refuse to simply accept uncomplainingly. At the very least, it’s wasting a lot of time and money while eroding our liberty and privacy. You may believe that it’s effective. I have seen no reason for such belief.

    As you note, security needs to evolve with the threat. But that’s different from what the TSA has been doing, reacting to failures by increasing the number of dubious hassles and restrictions. Please read what Bruce Schneier has to say about the dangers and futility of reacting to specific tactics, which is the TSA’s specialty.

    The message the TSA seems to be (unintentionally?) sending terrorists is that even inept cockamamie plots that could never succeed in causing mass destruction will be spectacularly successful in causing mass disruption. Send an expendable flunkie who will fail to blow up his trousers, and the TSA will complete the plot by inflicting a costly, intrusive, but USELESS reaction that makes travel that much more difficult and frustrating for millions of passengers. That may not delight Allah as much as a flaming plane full of infidels dropping out of the sky, but it does inflict significant damage on the enemy.

    Yes, Frank, I actually do think “this govt agency sits around trying to think up unconvenient ways for the (snobby) American traveler to endure.” They obviously don’t consider it in quite that fashion. But they do seem to believe that security is synonymous with hassle and intrusion: the more “layers,” the more security. That’s how security theatre works, by making the “security layers” visible and inconvenient enough to convince many travelers that it must be an effective “preventative measure.” So they’re constantly looking for new “layers” to add, which increase the apparent “effectiveness” of the checkpoints.

    Again, Frank, the disagreement we seem to have is that you are willing to accept and defend the TSA out of a belief that it’s effective. You also apparently believe that we have an obligation to ignore the obvious flaws and quietly accept them, perhaps in the interest of not spoiling the faith and reassurance those who Believe get from the TSA.

    I am not willing to believe that, in the absence of evidence that we’re actually getting security and not just faith-based security theatre. And the evidence I’ve seen from reliable sources like the GAO only convinces me that the TSA is spending a lot of our time and money providing the latter, while conditioning people to willingly surrender their privacy and rights for very questionable reassurances of “security.” I don’t consider that a good thing, although you might.

    I don’t know that it’s possible to bridge that chasm.

  • Frank

    The message the TSA seems to be (unintentionally?) sending terrorists is that even inept cockamamie plots that could never succeed in causing mass destruction will be spectacularly successful in causing mass disruption. Send an expendable flunkie who will fail to blow up his trousers, and the TSA will complete the plot by inflicting a costly, intrusive, but USELESS reaction that makes travel that much more difficult and frustrating for millions of passengers.
    ===================================================

    Could never succeed? HUH! He got his device onboard, lighted it, but it didnt go off. Malfunction THIS TIME. What about the next time, what if they send up a dozen devices? Guess those scanners are a BIG waste of time and money, til hundreds of passengers fell from the sky. Heck, they’re taking oxygen systems out of the lavatories now. Think those systems can be ignited, cause a lavatory fire, in most cases right behind the COCKPIT? See a problem there?
    Yeah, we’ve seen a few expendable flunkies. Underwear/shoe bomber. BUT, Remember these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijackers_in_the_September_11_attacks

    We have procedures in place to reduce this occurrence AGAIN: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Airlines_Flight_434

    Yousef went into the lavatory with his dopp kit in hand and took off his shoes to get out the batteries, wiring, and spark source hidden in the heel (below where metal detectors in use at the time could detect). Yousef removed an altered Casio digital watch from his wrist to be used as a timer, unpacked the remaining materials from his dopp kit, and assembled his bomb. He set the timer for four hours later, which was approximately the time at which the plane would be far out over the ocean en route to Tokyo, put the entire bomb back into his dopp kit, and returned to his current seat.

    The bomb was tucked into the life vest pocket under his seat, number 26K, where it would be out of the view of ground crews cleaning the plane at Cebu, and made one more seat change. In older 747s seat 26K is directly over the center fuel tank, where a rupture caused by a bomb would cause the airplane itself to explode even if the initial bomb blast did not cause sufficient damage to crash the plane. Philippine domestic flight attendant Maria Delacruz noticed that Yousef kept switching seats during the course of the Manila to Cebu flight,[3] but got off the plane at Cebu with the rest of the domestic flight crew, and did not pass the information along to the international flight crew that boarded at Cebu for the trip to Tokyo.

    Yousef and 25 other passengers also got off the plane at Cebu, where 256 more passengers and a new cabin crew boarded the plane for the final leg of the flight to Tokyo, Japan.

    [edit] ExplosionAfter a 38-minute delay[3] the flight took off with a total of 273 passengers on board and 24-year old Haruki Ikegami (池上春樹, Ikegami Haruki?), a Japanese industrial sewing machine maker returning from a business trip to Cebu, occupying 26K. Four hours after Yousef planted his bomb, the device exploded, killing Ikegami and injuring an additional 10 passengers in adjacent seats in front of and behind seat 26K. The blast blew a hole in the floor, and the cabin’s rapid expansion from the explosion severed several control cables in the ceiling, which controlled the plane’s right aileron, as well as cables that connected to both the pilot and first officer’s steering controls.

  • Frank

    Again, Frank, the disagreement we seem to have is that you are willing to accept and defend the TSA out of a belief that it’s effective. You also apparently believe that we have an obligation to ignore the obvious flaws and quietly accept them.
    =====================================================

    Every security system has a flaw. Ask the Secret Service who protected the Former President Ronald Reagan.

    Please explain to us how to protect the nation’s millions of travelers from terrorists??????? Metal detector? Is that enough? Wanna go back to the dozens of security firms that were (supposedly) protecting the flying public BEFORE 9-11? I dont.

  • Stacey

    What are your congressmen doing to stop TSA? NOTHING. Start protesting outside their offices. Obama could stop this anytime he wanted to. TSA is under the executive branch. He is trying to kill the airline industry and bring in hs $55 billion dollar high speed trains.

  • Jasnalexandr

    I recently flew out of the Reno/Tahoe International Airport.  I was shocked to watch a TSA agent coming on shift, cut in line in front of me and hold out the TSA ID she wore around her neck like some kind of talisman.  The TSA agent monitoring the X-Ray machines, waved her on.  She wore a backpack, and she did not remove it or her shoes to have them checked by the machine.  She was similarly waved through the scanners (not the backscatter – naked – scanners, but the old fashioned metal detectors).  The metal detector sounded the alarm – but the agent waved her through as a matter of course, clearly confident it was impossible she could be carrying a bomb or weapon into the “secure” area of the airport.  This is clearly a major hole in TSA security.  A U.S. citizen that happens to be a terrorist sympathizer could easily pass on weapons to terrorist operatives once they have passed through security.  From there, the possibilities are truly terrorizing. 

  • Doreenchis

    do you have to show your money?

  • Guest

      Good article, Not great because it makes to ridiculous assumptions the there are actual terrorists out there trying to “attack America” because they” hate our freedoms”. 
     The only terrorists are the Israelis.  Israel attacked America on 911. Israel is behind the fabricated terror threat. Israel is behind the TSA, the patriot act and every other freedom restricting act.  The gentiles are too dumb to see what’s going on. They have been deliberately dumbed down through the Jewish control of the dept of education as well as the drugging of society via the medical/pharmaceutical industry and chemicals put into the water supply.

  • anonymous

    Does the TSA require you to show an ID to board any aircraft such as a helicopter and if so where in the TSA regulations manual does it say that

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