Friday, June 27, 2008

ID Update and Word on the Blog

June 27th Update to ID Requirements:

Now that the new ID requirement is almost one week old, we wanted to provide additional stats. Below are the latest numbers:

Saturday, June 21-Wednesday, June 25:

Total flyers: Approximately 10 million
Flyers without ID: 1705 (.000017 of total flyers)
Flyers denied access: 59 (.000005 of total passengers)
Average wait time for identity verification or decision: 6.9 minutes

And an editorial comment:

A few bloggers have asked us where we are and why we have not responded to questions. Questions like:

“Do these questions being to make you realize why TSA is a joke?”

“Of what are you so afraid that you refuse to address this issue?”

“Unless you are just going to turn the blog iinto (sic) a carnival or circus?”

That last one brings us to an interesting point. As Kip wrote in the opening post of this blog on January 30th, “Our ambition is to provide here a forum for a lively, open discussion of TSA issues… Our hosts…job is to engage with you straight-up and take it from there.”

I think we can all agree that comments like:

“I am just waiting for Kip to mutter "I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids."

“My tinfoil hat theory is that the TSA knows it doesn't and have given up any pretense of spin control.”

“I agree -- more TSA crap. The sooner y'all are simply arrested for violating our rights, the happier I'll be.”

don’t really bring anything to the larger debate and really don’t beg for nor want a response.

The simple truth is that we’re just about the only government agency engaging in this type of dialogue on security issues and policies and we’re sincerely interested in rational debate and conversation...but we have neither the time nor the desire to respond to random, vitriol filled diatribes that don’t serve passengers or other bloggers in any way.

We’ve used this blog as a method of change and hope we have proven its merit on several occasions (ending the electronics problem in Hooray Bloggers, Diamond Lanes, etc.). These posts and the bloggers' comments have had a positive impact on your experience and mine at the checkpoint. We’re more than willing to engage in a vigorous debate on controversial issues and look forward to many more spirited debates without the poison for poison’s sake.

We’ve certainly proven over the past seven months that we can take a punch but the constant barrage of body (and low) blows without substance would tire even Mike Tyson in his heyday.


EOS Blog Team

Monday, June 23, 2008

New ID Requirements: The First 48

UPDATE: We're aware of reports that someone was asked their political affiliation to verify their identity and it is being looked into. Here's a response given to us by Kip Hawley: "It's unequivocally not our policy to use political, religious, or other sensitive personal topics as identity validation. If it happened, it was wrong and will not be repeated."

We're 48 hours into the new procedure and things have been smooth so far. Approximately 650 people have shown up to security checkpoints without ID and a total of 20 people have not been allowed to fly. That is .0005 percent of the approximately four million people that flew this weekend.

Of the 650 people that showed up without ID, it's taking us an average of 10 minutes to verify their identity and get them on their way. We're able to do this so quickly because of the close coordination of our officers at airports and our 24/7 ops center.

Our critics say this has nothing to do with security and it only affects people that want to exercise their rights to anonymous air travel (which Gilmore v Gonzalez ruled on) and terrorists that aren't good liars.

What these folks aren't getting is that by requiring ID, you're closing that old loophole that allowed (up until Saturday) anyone, good or bad, to show up with any boarding pass (theirs or someone else's), say they lost their ID, get a pat-down and bag check and be on their way. Now, no self respecting terrorist is going to subject him or herself to all the additional attention the new procedures brings. This includes: the possibility of interviews with behavior detection officers, calls about them to our national counter-terrorism ops center, unpredictable physical and bag screening and the real possibility of a chat with a local or federal law enforcement officer. No, now we're funneling people with bad intentions towards our expert-trained document checkers and behavior experts. Could a bad person produce an excellent fake ID and get past document checkers... sure. We know that no single layer is invulnerable, but forcing terrorists into what we want as opposed to what they prefer is just good security.

We'll continue to update the stats here and continue to thank the 99.9995 percent of air travelers that work with us to quickly and easily establish their identity.

EoS Blog Team

Friday, June 20, 2008

New ID Requirements Begin Tomorrow

If you're flying tomorrow, or anytime in the near future, you may want to make a note that tomorrow is the day the TSA enhances its ID requirements. There have been many misconceptions of the new requirements and I just wanted to attempt to clear things up a little bit.

We've all been there. You've got a million things to do before you fly. Pay bills, pack, get the kids ready, get your clothes from the dry cleaner, you name it. Whatever it is you have to do, it's inevitable that you'll forget at least one of them from time to time. (Hopefully not the kids) I usually forget my toothbrush.

What if you forget your ID? Is your vacation ruined? Are you going to miss your meeting? Are you going to miss the Elvis Costello show this weekend at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall? Not at all… If you simply state you forgot your ID, we will work with you to verify your ID, you may undergo some additional screening and will be permitted to fly.

On the other hand, if you do not cooperate and state that you're not willing to show us your ID, you will not be permitted to fly.

You show your ID to test drive a car, view an apartment, buy a house, cash a check, buy cigarettes or alcohol, rent videos and so forth. The list could go on and in some of these circumstances; they hold onto your card or make a copy. We're just asking for a few moments of your time to ensure your name matches the name on your ticket.

Is this about control? No. It's about knowing who is getting on the plane. It's about shifting our focus towards people instead of items on a list. You know as well as we do that you can make a weapon out of anything. The naked human body of someone skilled in martial arts is far more dangerous than most people with a weapon. We know that and we're shifting towards that line of thought. It is going to be a huge change in our culture, but I and others firmly believe this is the proper evolution path for security.

If our goal is to keep bad people off of planes, and our law enforcement and intelligence partners have gone to the lengths of creating watch lists of known terrorists to keep them off said planes, we have to know for sure that each person who goes through matches the name on their boarding pass and is who they say they are. Most people are not a threat, but we know there are people out there that could pose a threat. Letting anyone go through who says "I don't want to show my ID" is not good security. It's not a poke in the eye to certain folks – it's about security for everyone and we view verifying identity as importantly as we view having passengers pass through metal detectors.

Make sure you also check out Christopher's blog post on IDs.

EoS Blog Team

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Evolution Continues

Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) became the latest airport to unveil Checkpoint Evolution today. They introduced passengers to the new uniform, training, and new signage all geared towards making the checkpoint a much more relaxing environment while also enhancing security.

We sent Jeremy (best known for his work spinning on our evolution Web site) to Reagan National today to get some photo and video from officers and passengers. Luckily, while Jeremy was on location, there were no sightings of puppies or poultry projectiles.

We’re excited to continue to introduce more passengers to the Evolution of Security and I personally can’t wait to fly through DCA again so I can give it a test drive.

TSA EoS Blog Team

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

(Photo is a dramatic recreation)

While this story is not directly related to the TSA, it shows that a bomb can be hidden anywhere by those with fowl intent (pun intended). We thought we'd have a little fun, we hope you enjoy it:

We’re not sure why the chicken crossed the road, but we do know what happened after it did.

On June 10th in Simsbury, Connecticut, police found a pipe bomb stuffed inside of a raw roasting chicken. The chicken was noticed on the side of the road by a passing motorist with a bird’s eye view...

The Police Chief declined to comment due to the pending investigation, so at this point, we’re not sure who hatched this bird-brained plot or why.

It is possible that some misguided youth were egged on to make the poultry projectile. But the real intent is unknown.

The Hartford Police Department's bomb squad took stock in the incident and arrived on scene to detonate the chicken. The road was closed during the detonation, preventing anybody from crossing. (Including Chickens) One member of the squad stated it was poultry in motion (yes we're kidding).

We hope that nobody takes advantage of this incident by using tired old chicken puns (how lame would that be). Remember to report all suspicious activity.


EoS Blog Team

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why is ID Important for Security?

Last week we announced on our Web site a plan to begin REQUIRING ID from travelers on June 21st. This plan includes enabling our officers to refuse entry into the area beyond the security checkpoint to anyone who does not cooperate with us to establish his or her identity. The exclusive reason to do this is to ensure people are who they say they are and are not gaming the system by using a boarding pass with a fake name; a well-known endeavor of professionals and college kids alike that could potentially circumvent the no-fly list.

Does that mean that if you lose your wallet in the cab on the way to the airport you’re going to have to walk home?

Absolutely not…this rule is solely focused on the passenger who simply will not provide ID or help us establish their identity.

So for the security experts in the crowd (and you know you’re out there) you might be asking yourself a few questions, like:

So if a terrorist shows up and says his dog ate his ID, you’ll just let him go?

The answer is a simple and clear NO. Under today’s rules, you show up, say you lost your ID, get a quick pat down, have your bag searched and you’re on your way. One enterprising fellow has even advocated it as a quicker way through security in the past.

Starting June 21, that person could be subjected to a range of options, including interviews with behavior detection officers and local and/or federal law enforcement, enhanced pat-downs or other options. By increasing our options, people with bad intentions don’t know what exactly to plan against, have to beat multiple layers at the checkpoint and need to be ready to face any number of obstacles to their plans.

Why would a terrorist show up and say he has no ID when he can just show a fake and breeze right through?

Ah hah, that’s where layers of security really come into play. TSA has deployed thousands of highly-trained document checkers to identify fake IDs. We’ve caught everything from Spring Breakers with terrible IDs to fraudulent passports. Our officers are very adept at finding fake documents and work closely with behavior detection officers on a daily basis. The old story of the airline contractor not even looking up at a person while checking IDs is long in the rear view mirror.

This is just an assault on my personal freedoms and security theater.

The only reason we’re doing this is to make sure people are who they say they are and not someone who is a known threat to aviation.

Also, our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities work tirelessly to identify potential threats to aircraft. Enhancing our ID requirements further enables TSA security officers to ensure that individuals are who they say they are when they enter the security checkpoint and not individuals who may pose a threat.

And for all the legal eagles out there, it is my constitutional right to fly without ID.

Under the law that created TSA, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, the TSA administrator is responsible for overseeing aviation security (P.L. 107-71) and has the authority to establish security procedures at airports (49 C.F.R. § 1540.107). Passengers who fail to comply with security procedures may be prohibited from entering the secure area of airports to catch their flight (49 C.F.R. § 1540.105(a)(2). Additionally, in Gilmore v. Gonzalez, 435 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2006) the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiff’s constitutional challenges to a passenger identification policy.

This initiative is simply a way for us to better enforce the no-fly list and ensure the safety of the traveling public. No secret motives, no hidden agendas, just a security enhancement aimed at people trying to game the system.

For more information, go here.


EOS Blog Team

Update: 6/14/08

Just a quick note… Our ticket checkers found a fraudulent ID at JFK. Just thought some of you might be interested.

At New York Kennedy Airport (JFK) on Thursday, June 12, a passenger was interviewed by police after attempting to enter into a security checkpoint with a fraudulent ID.

A TSA Travel Document Checker noticed a passenger trying to use a fraudulent New York driver’s license and notified the Port Authority Police Department who came and interviewed her. The Port Authority Police Department released the passenger after issuing a Summons to Appear.

Travel Document Checkers are TSA officers that are specially trained to detect fraudulent IDs and boarding passes to help keep our airports safe and secure.


EoS Blog Team

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Day in the Life of Checkpoint Evolution at BWI

Just like scientists strap cameras to wildebeests in the Serengeti, we have strapped a camera to a passenger. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to see exactly what a passenger sees as they walk through their brand new checkpoint at BWI. Watch as the passenger winds through the blue glow of the quiet jungle of machines. It’s like you’re actually there.

Listen to what passengers and Transportation Security Officers have to say about the new checkpoint.

Learn about the new passenger engagement training our Transportation Security Officers are receiving.

Read more about Checkpoint Evolution.


EoS Blog Team

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is this really a better checkpoint?

Blogger’s Note:

We thought you’d be interested in hearing directly from an officer first hand how some of the new technologies we’re putting in airports is affecting the job and in turn passengers’ experiences.

Below is the first installment of these first hand accounts. Enjoy:

“Are you kidding?” was my immediate answer. And it was the plain truth. It was how I answered the question “Is this really a better checkpoint?” from the most recent group of VIP’s that were touring the checkpoint where I work.

We have seen plenty of them recently. I work at BWI airport’s Pier B where two years ago Southwest Airlines redid the entire wing of the airport and in the last two months TSA has installed the Checkpoint Evolution.

There is a lot I like about it. And while the uniforms, badges, mood lights and music grab a lot of attention, for me the star of the show is the new X-ray machines.

We call them "ATIX" on the floor. Google that and you get the formal name “Advanced Threat Identification X-rays.” We got Baltimore’s first two at my pier and the whole airport gets them by June. TSA’s Web site says that we bought hundreds more to install nationwide this year.

Not much of that matters to me. What does matter is how much better my 30 minute rotation at the X-Ray is now. Start with the screens. High resolution flat screen monitors make picking stuff out tons easier. Plus they look right. Nobody will miss squinting into those huge, heavy 1982-era computer screens that look like they belong in a museum.

And we are probably doing only half the bag checks we used to because we now have two angles to view the bag. Plus we don’t need a TSO to lug the bag back to the front to rerun it anymore because the officer physically searching the bag has the same view as the officer doing the first screening. It is not as good as the COBRA machine we tested here last year that lets you spin the image on the screen. But it is very good and is a big step forward from where we were.

The automatic threat boxes help too. They pick up items we may not have focused our attention on that could possibly be explosives. This is just another tool that helps us do our job better.

On the downside, it is not lightning fast. And I’m not as fast with it as I was with the old X-Ray machines. Not yet. But in the meantime I will take the tradeoff any day. And so would any passenger that trusts us with their safety.

Paula Furman

EoS Blog Contributor