Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Leave your shoes on?

Wouldn’t it be great to show up at a checkpoint and just when you were reaching down to untie your shoes, you heard an officer say “You can leave your shoes on.”

The TSA is well aware that the removal of shoes is not our most popular policy. In fact, it probably ranks up there with root canals and doing your taxes.

What you’ve seen up until now has been our officers enforcing an unpopular policy that is based on the unfortunate truth that intelligence tells us that terrorists are still very interested in hiding items in their shoes.

Today, the X-ray is simply the quickest, most effective way to ensure nothing is hidden inside. What you haven’t seen is all the hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes trying to find an alternative. Our experts and the private sector have been looking for ways to screen footwear while allowing passengers to keep their shoes on for quite some time.

Last year, TSA tested a shoe scanner from General Electric in Orlando. Today, we’re testing shoe scanning technology at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from L3 Communications. If all goes well, these tests could lead the way to quelling of one of our most unpopular policies.

LAX received two units from L3 Communications last week. Since this is a test to collect data, passengers will still need to remove their shoes prior to walking through the magnetometer. Hey, don’t kill the messenger. I’m just giving you a heads up! :)

DHS Science and Technology, a sister agency of TSA, is also testing this shoe scanner and will collaborate with us on their findings.

Programs like the shoe scanner, the checkpoint friendly laptop bag and diamond lanes are not only good for passenger convenience but they help to reduce the chaos and frustration at checkpoints. This is good for security because it allows more than 2,000 Behavior Detection Officers to better focus on passengers with harmful intent.

And yes, we are going to answer your top 10 questions. :)
EoS Blog Team

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pay For Performance; Good For Security

The next time you’re in the security line at your local airport, contemplating the 3-1-1 liquids rule or the possibility of making it home in time to tuck your kids into bed, take a quick look at the officers at the checkpoint.

Right there in front of you are some of the most tested professionals inside or outside of government. At any time, 24/7/365 TSA, DHS or GAO testers can and do test our officers’ ability to detect items that could be used in an attack. Our belief is that rewarding excellent performers is one way to motivate a workforce with a deadly serious job to do. Conversely, not rewarding mediocre performance based solely on seniority is a way to motivate people to step up or consider other career options.

Yesterday, our Deputy Administrator, Gale Rossides testified before members of Congress on TSA’s pay-for-performance compensation system. Along side colleagues from the intelligence and law enforcement communities, she clearly explained that our system provides incentives to the best performing officers. Nowhere is this more important than on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to keep its citizens safe. We thought you might find her opening statement interesting and thought provoking. For her more comprehensive, written testimony, click here.

Oral Statement
Before the
JULY 22, 2008

Good afternoon, Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Voinovich, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. I am pleased to be here today to discuss TSA's progress on our pay-for-performance system, known as PASS [Performance Accountability and Standards System].

I am honored to appear and represent the thousands of TSA employees, our Transportation Security Officers [TSOs], who serve to ensure the safety and security of 2 million passengers a day. These women and men are dedicated security professionals with one of the most difficult jobs in government. These Officers are the most tested in the Federal workforce. Contrary to what so often is the headline grabber about attrition, 22,000 of our Officers have been with TSA from the beginning. They have participated in the largest stand-up of a Federal agency in fifty years. They have stayed with us as we responded to the evolving threat by continuously enhancing the security process, while also building the infrastructure and the human capital system to properly pay, train, reward, and recognize their performance. They stayed for the mission.

There are two reasons TSA relies on pay for performance. Security is the first and foremost. Second, it is to instill a culture of high performance and accountability in our workforce.

Performance on the job has a special meaning for us. Let me be very direct. Our job is to stop a terrorist attack. Our Officers work in an environment in which 99.9 percent of the people they see every day are not a threat, but the threats against our aviation system remain. TSOs want to get passengers through the security checkpoint with a high degree of confidence that they have stopped anyone seeking to do harm—your safety is their priority.

How does PASS improve security? When you get paid more to do a better job, you do a better job. PASS is targeted to reward excellent performance. That is an incentive to perform at the highest level to which you are capable. PASS rewards the individual performance necessary to achieve TSA's organizational goals and that increases security.

TSA's pay-for-performance system is driven by validated data. Its performance metrics are standardized, measurable, observable and almost completely objective. PASS has been adjusted based on feedback from our Officers about what the real job is.

Our Officers have told us they want a pay-for-performance system because they know what is at stake: they want to know that their fellow officers are equally competent. But building a pay-for-performance system takes time. It takes employee engagement. It takes leadership. It takes flexibilities in the human capital system. It takes continuous improvement and it takes constant communication. But for us, it is essential. In my thirty years of Federal service, twenty-three of them with the General Schedule, I have never been more sure of anything: The pay-for-performance system is the best way in this post 9/11 environment, for TSA to manage and ensure the quality of persons on the front line.

The effectiveness of PASS is proven by the statistics. More than half of our TSO workforce has been on the job for four years or more. The 2007 DHS Annual Employee Survey validates that 94 percent of TSOs said the work they do is important. Eighty-three percent said they know how their work relates to the agency's goals and priorities.

TSA supervisors have a significant stake in the PASS program as well, and they are evaluated on how effectively and fairly they administer it. Successful implementation of the program is a component of their own PASS ratings.

At TSA, pay for performance ensures the technical proficiency of the people on the front line. Our goal is for our Officers to be switched on and always at the ready. Pay for performance drives their higher level of performance because their earning power is directly tied to their learning power.
The Senior Leadership Team of TSA is passionately dedicated to our people and the principles of pay-for-performance. We are committed to using the flexible human capital system provided under ATSA to make TSA a model performance-based organization. We are building a culture in which our workforce is actively engaged. It is through listening and working collaboratively with all of our Officers to find solutions that we will continue to meet our challenges.

While significant advances are being made in our technology and security processes, each day's success begins and ends with our Officers. They are TSA's greatest investment. They are everyday heroes. In this war on terror, the individual motivation of our Officers to excel is critical to our success. We rely on the best to do the best at this security job. Pay-for-performance is vital to sustaining this top performing workforce.

TSA Blog Team

Friday, July 18, 2008

Calling All Lurkers

We have about 4000 unique readers on our blog per week and only a very small percentage of those readers comment. We’d like to hear from the silent majority. You know – the lurkers.

We're going to dedicate this post to taking your top 10 questions. Ask away and on Monday at close of business, I'll begin tallying up the questions and we'll see to it that the top 10 questions are answered. We’ll try to get them all posted within a week.

Of course, these are aviation security related questions, so please don’t ask me what the meaning of life is. (42) The blog team probably doesn’t know how to fix your stove or build a suspension bridge, so save those questions for another blog.

Before all of our current commenters get their feelings hurt, we appreciate you guys and of course we want to hear from you too, so even if you’ve asked a question before, ask again if you haven’t received an answer yet.

We’ll see how this goes. This may be a good manageable way to get your questions answered 10 at a time.


EoS Blog Team

NOTE: to see comments above 200 click on the "post a comment" link to make a comment (you can view the 200+ comments from the website). Or Click Here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Myth Buster: TSA's Watch List is More Than One Million People Strong

MYTH: TSA's watch list has more than 1 million names on it.

BUSTER: First, TSA doesn't have a watch list. TSA is a customer of the Terrorist Screening Center, a component of the FBI that is responsible for maintaining the consolidated terrorist watch list. The center has said publicly that there are less than 400,000 individuals on the overall consolidated watch list, 95 percent of whom are not U.S. persons and the vast majority of whom are not even in the U.S.

TSA uses two subsets of this list, the no-fly and selectee lists. These small subsets of the overall list are reserved for known or suspected terrorists that reach a threshold where they should not be allowed to fly, or should get additional scrutiny.

MYTH: There are 1 million names on U.S. Government terror watch lists.

BUSTER: There are less than 400,000 individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list and less than 50,000 individuals on the no-fly and selectee lists. Individuals on the no-fly and selectee lists are identified by law enforcement and intelligence partners as legitimate threats to transportation requiring either additional screening or prohibition from boarding an aircraft.

MYTH: The ACLU's math estimates that there will be 1 million people on government watch lists this July.

BUSTER: Assumptions about the list are just plain wrong. While a September 2007 report may have said that there are 700,000 records on the terrorist watch list and it was growing by an average of 20,000 per month, that is not the same as the number of individuals on the watch lists. A new "record" is created for every alias, date-of-birth, passport and other identifying information for watch listed suspects. The ACLU does not account for the name-by-name scrub that took place in the Fall of 2007 by all government agencies involved with the lists through the Terrorist Screening Center. This review reduced the no-fly and selectee lists by almost 50 percent and eliminated records of individuals that no longer pose a threat.

MYTH: Ted Kennedy, Catherine Stevens, and "Robert Johnson" are all on the no-fly or selectee watch lists.

BUSTER: These individuals are NOT on the no-fly or selectee lists. They, and other Americans, are being misidentified as individuals on the selectee list. Today watch list matching is carried out by the airlines for every passenger manifest. In cases when individuals with similar names are misidentified, folks experience inconvenience like no remote check-in but they are allowed to fly. Once TSA's Secure Flight initiative is in place the number of misidentifications will be GREATLY reduced. Under Secure Flight, TSA assumes watch list matching from dozens of airlines and implements a uniform, efficient matching process. Today the Department of Homeland Security's Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs--like airports and train stations--or crossing U.S. borders.

  • Terror watch lists keep legitimate terror threats off of airplanes every day, all over the world.
  • According to the Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, terror watch lists have, "helped combat terrorism" and "enhanced U.S. counterterrorism effort."
  • Our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities work tirelessly and in some cases under great physical danger to identify individuals that pose a terror threat. The simple truth is that it would be negligent to not use this information to our advantage.
EoS Blog Team

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lost & Found in LA: $30,000.00 Watch Returned to Passenger

One has to figure, over the course of any trip, be it business or pleasure, there are dozens of opportunities to lose things.

Hotels, shuttles, restaurants, buses, rental cars, airplanes, taxis, restrooms, and yes, even security checkpoints present "opportunities" to lose that special piece of jewelry, the cell phone, laptop, bluetooth, belt, hat, car keys, DVD player, passports and the list goes on and on, up to and including dentures (which we have actually found, and no, weren't required to be removed).

Solving the mystery of who belongs to what is incredibly labor-intensive but TSA employees across the country work to get these items back to their rightful owner; all in addition to their “regular” jobs of protecting the traveling public. It should be clear, TSA doesn't manage lost and found in all airports, some police departments, air carriers or airports can handle lost and found responsibilities too.

I know of cases where our people have found a cell phone owner simply by calling a number in the address book. We have had success using Web sites like MySpace to find the owner of a lost driver's license. We've even had cases of officers calling that grocery store from the club card on key chains to find an owner. Whatever the case, we have had some success.

Other times, it's simply impossible to find the owner. There are no identifying characteristics from an owner on a belt, a hat or a scarf. Once in a while though, we'll have a name and number on a walker, cane, stroller or car seat. No lie, people lose this stuff.

So, when an items falls into our lap at an airport like L.A., we'll log it, the time it was found, the terminal, the airline servicing that terminal and the lane; all clues that help us identify the rightful owner, should that person call to claim it.

I spoke with Hector Moreno, an officer at LAX who provided this brief tour of our lost and found operation.

While I was with Hector, a passenger had come into the office to claim an item, here is his story.

Additionally, I received an email last week from a passenger who wanted to applaud the work officers had done to reunite him with his watch.

Jeffrey Neuman flew through LAX around Mother's Day and inadvertently left his collector Cartier watch in one of our bins. Knowing the value of his watch, he fully expected to never see it again. Boy, was he in for a surprise.

So given the huge volume of items that are left at the checkpoints at LAX and I am sure around the country, the next time one of your items goes missing, give the local lost and found a call, it's quite possible we have it.

However, don't wait too long, as we only hold onto items valued at less than 500 bucks for 30 days, at which point they are donated to the General Services Administration, the government's entity responsible for property. More expensive items are held at our national HQ warehouse for up to two years.

One last thought, if possible, put your name on your items or tape a business card to an item, especially laptops, it sure makes the process of reuniting these items with passengers much easier.


EoS Blog Team

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shocking, but False

Some of you have asked about the Washington Times Blog Piece that talked about shock bracelets. We reached out to the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate to see if there was any validity to this story, and there isn’t.

Here’s what S&T's John Verrico posted as a comment on the Washington Times blog, and we wanted to make sure all of our readers saw it was well.

DHS-S&T spokesman said...

Shocking, but False 

Sometimes it just amazes me how these stories evolve. Let me start off by saying that the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate nor TSA have been pursuing shock bracelets for airline passengers as alleged by the Washington Times Blog. 

This allegation stemmed from a misleading video posted on the Lamberd Website which depicts an ID bracelet that would contain identifying information as well as the ability to stun the wearer. The company claims to connect use of such a device to DHS and TSA, but no discussions between these agencies has ever taken place. 

This all originated from a meeting held two years ago with a private company representative (not Lamberd) who proposed bracelet technology in response to the TSA's desire to find less-than-lethal means to detain an apprehended suspect. The bracelet was never intended to replace boarding passes, contain ID information or be worn by all passengers as asserted in the Lamberd video and discussed in the Washington Times Blog. 

The hypothetical use of the bracelet would have been for transporting already apprehended prisoners and detainees at prisons and border patrol facilities, and DHS was looking to see if there were potential air travel applications for apprehended suspects. 

This concept was never funded or supported by the DHS or TSA and hasn’t even been discussed for two years. The letter circulating throughout the blogosphere from Paul Ruwaldt was not addressed to Lamberd and merely states the DHS was interested in learning more about the technology.

Neither side followed up. DHS/TSA does NOT support the asserted use and has not pursued the development of such technology. - John Verrico DHS S&T Spokesman


EoS Blog Team

Monday, July 7, 2008

The evolution of the Bag: Going "Checkpoint Friendly"

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the evolution of the security checkpoint here during the past seven months. Some ideas like the Diamond Lanes and our screening of the MacBook Air have been tremendously well received while other topics like the science behind 3-1-1 and our recent ID requirement have generated lots of, let’s just call them spirited debates… In all cases, we’re working to create a system that is not only better for security but easier for passengers to navigate. We do this not because of a need to be loved, but because we increase security through a calmer checkpoint (think bad guys sticking out of the crowd more in a relaxed environment).

One project we’re currently working on that has been widely discussed on the Internet and several blogs is a “checkpoint friendly” laptop bag. This bag would allow our officers a clear, unobstructed view of the laptop and allow passengers to keep the laptop in the bag during screening.

Why do we keep calling it a “checkpoint friendly” bag you may ask? Because the simple truth is that if we were to “certify” bags or “TSA approve” bags, we’d be here for months and maybe years and not weeks developing an approved government standard for laptop bags. By not certifying or approving, we leave it to industry to develop bags that work and get out of their way. We expect these bags to hit the market in the Fall, in plenty of time for holiday shopping this year.

To support private industry’s foray into this new and exciting field, we have opened up our operations to bag manufacturers for a look see. The TSA screening operations at Ontario, California, Austin, Texas and Washington-Dulles have invited manufacturers in to see how their prototypes appear on our x-ray machines, both AT and standard. Officers working these checkpoints are providing valuable feedback on which bags work and which ones need more work. After all, the ultimate authority on whether a laptop will have to be removed from a bag will rest with the officer working the x-ray machine.

Once manufacturers think that their bags are indeed “checkpoint friendly,” then we expect them to produce bags for the market. Some things to look for in your “checkpoint friendly” bag, once they’re on the market, include:

o No metal snaps or zippers underneath or on-top of where the laptop would be X-rayed
o Plastic works much better than anything metal
o No pockets either underneath or on-top of where the laptop would be X-rayed
o Bags with thick dividers may cause officers to pull the bags for secondary screening and do not provide clear images
o No emblems or seals that are thick and placed on top of or underneath where the laptop would be
o Bags greater than 30 inches in length when unfolded often do not fit on a single image, requiring the TSA officer to view the contents of the bag as multiple images, which takes longer. It is faster to keep the fully opened bag to an opened length of 30 inches or less (although not critical for image clarity).
o If the bag does not present a clear image to the officer, he or she should be able to have easy access to the laptop computer for secondary screening to speed the process.

The key is a clear image of the laptop inside the bag. If wires, batteries or cords are on top of or under the laptop, it’s going to have to come out; which will slow security and anger a passenger that just bought this new “checkpoint friendly” bag.

So, all this talk about laptops may leave you asking, “Why do laptops have to come out of the bag today?” The reason is so we can get a good, clear look at them. It’s easy to hide items inside of or underneath laptops. By removing the laptop from the bag and placing it in a bin, the officer can quickly make the determination that the laptop hasn’t been altered or is hiding anything.

EOS Blog Team

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Yet Another ID Post...With Some Answers to Your Questions

The ID topic has elicited lots of emotion. Many posters feel very strongly on this topic and I respect that discussion and their positions. This is a case where taking steps for aviation security touch other, related controversies that are larger societal/political issues. To the extent that there are legal issues relating to TSA’s actions, they will be resolved elsewhere.

I would like to move on to other topics since we are not going to solve the several complex issues here and we do have lots of other security issues to discuss.

The essential point is that validating a passenger’s identity matters a great deal from a security point of view. Our intelligence, military, and law enforcement colleagues -- at great risk to themselves -- develop sensitive information about potential attacks and the people behind them. They get that information to us so that TSA can do its part and keep those people off aircraft. It is our obligation to protect passengers and crew using the best information that we can get. That is what we are doing.

We will leave this open for further discussion and then move on with our next post. But before we move on, I wanted to provide answers to some of your questions.

Q: If requiring ID is truly instrumental in keeping the flying public safe, why did it take the TSA until June of 2008 to institute that policy?

A: Building blocks.

TSA put up a national security baseline in 2002. This involved creating the organization, staffing, buying and installing equipment -- and the very familiar magnetometer/x-ray checkpoint. No-Fly and Selectee lists were established and given to airlines for them to match versus their ticketed passengers. Airlines continued the pre-9/11 practice of hiring contractors locally to check ID’s. That created a basic physical screening process at the checkpoint (TSA operated) and a basic person screening process through the airlines.

In 2006 and 2007 TSA strengthened the person screening process by adding a new layer (behavior) and improving the watchlist matching. Along with the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), TSA scrubbed the No-Fly and selectee lists and essentially cut them in half. (CIA and FBI are the major players nominating people to the Watchlists, TSC maintains a consolidated, accurate, government-wide watchlist, and TSA operationally makes sure No-Flys don’t fly.) The system is vulnerable to people evading watchlists if they use a fake identity with the airline and then show a fake ID at the checkpoint. This vulnerability was called out by many on-line posters (and noticed by us) and we took a major step last year to upgrade the ID checks by integrating the checking of ID’s with the rest of TSA’s security. That is why you now have TSA officers, with lights and loupes examining ID’s throughout the system.

The ID requirements we’re talking about here, are the next building blocks to be added. First, to require identity verification and better define the hierarchy of good ID’s -- hence the ‘gold standard.’

We know that terrorists use fake ID's to evade security scrutiny. While I recognize that there are very valid philosophical issues and debates around ID’s, for TSA, this issue is about closing vulnerabilities and stopping attacks.
There is considerable operational complexity to resolving the identity of a person without an ID real-time at the checkpoint. It is getting done now but is still clunky at times. We will get better over the coming months. In answer to the question, all of the building blocks mentioned above, needed to be in place. They are now and aviation is safer as a result

Q: What will TSA do if a majority of the states refuse to issue REAL ID cards to their respective citizens?

A: We would attempt to verify identity with other means, it would just take longer.

Q: If TSA believes that 1) checking ID increases safety to the flying public and 2) the no-fly list is there to catch terrorists, then why are the TSOs that check IDs at the airport not comparing names to those on the no-fly list?

A: Because those checks are done before the boarding pass is issued. It is done in the background by a combination of the airlines and TSA. The system is automated and close matches are resolved on a one by one basis.

Q: Since it has been claimed by TSA that the 3-1-1 rule was implemented due to the circumstances surrounding the London bomb plot, what position will TSA take if the defendants are found not-guilty?

A: I can’t comment on the U.K. legal system but “certainty” in a criminal proceeding is very carefully defined. I can tell you from the intelligence and law enforcement information developed in this case that the threat to U.S. aircraft was chilling, lethal and the clock was ticking when they were arrested. Had that plot not been discovered, there may well have been thousands of casualties. Doubt about the reality or efficacy of that threat? Zero.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Okay, we continue to receive questions on the ID requirement. I will attempt to answer as many as possible below. It’s kind of a virtual chat. We’d love to be able to do a live chat and we’re exploring that technological possibility.

There is also the very real possibility that civil people can agree to disagree…which is the direction I believe we’re heading.

Here goes:

Anonymous said... Could you please elaborate on those approximately 20 persons that weren´t allowed to fly? June 23, 2008 4:51 PM

Sure. The 20 people of the 10 million plus that did fly were turned away from the checkpoint. Some went and got their IDs, some tried to fly from other airports (and were stopped) and the rest just didn’t come back.

Phil said... TSA: If the people on your blacklist are so dangerous that we must restrict their movement, why don't you send the police to arrest them and put them in front of a judge? June 23, 2008 4:52 PM

Couple things here Phil. First off, TSA doesn’t have a “blacklist.” We use two of the Terrorist Screening Center’s watch lists, no-fly and selectee. The no-fly is reserved for known threats to aviation, most of which are not in this country and are not exactly sitting around, waiting for a visit from any government official, U.S. or otherwise. While the exact number of “no-flys” is secret, there are many, many less than 500,000. No Ted Kennedy and other are NOT on the no-fly list. If a person truly is, they “NO FLY” get it?

The other list is the selectee list. This list is for people that require additional screening before they fly. They fly after undergoing additional screening..

Anonymous said... So you're saying that you've been letting 10 people too dangerous to fly on planes each and every day since your misbegotten agency started? June 23, 2008 5:03 PM

Huh??? What we’re saying is that identity matters and we’re strengthening the system by verifying ID.

Chris Boyce said... 1. Where is the privacy impact assessment for the new form and the obviously commercial datamining check? I don't recall seeing it on line, nor do I remember a public comment period. We wouldn't be breaking the law, would we???

No Chris, we wouldn’t be breaking the law. A privacy impact assessment has been conducted and is pending review at DHS prior to being posted. There is no public comment period for Privacy Impact Assessments. Also, commercial “datamining” is not an accurate description of what is happening. We are simply using commercial data as a way to assist individuals in verifying their identity when they otherwise are unable to establish it through an acceptable identity document. Commercial data is not being used to predict criminal or terrorist activity.

2. Why would Hawley state on CNN that he was confident that his new policy would withstand a legal challenge if it weren't retaliatory in nature? Surely even he would know that it's unlikely that lawsuits are a known Al Qaeda tactic. June 23, 2008 5:13 PM

Huh? The question from the reporter was, “Would this new procedure withstand a lawsuit?” The answer was yes. Had the question been, “Will Al Qaeda sue you over this new procedure,” the answer would have been different.

Marshall's SO said... OK, so now we know what kinds of questions travelers, even those who are lying, are asked when they say they "forgot" their ID, i.e., birthdate, previous address, political party affiliation, where are you getting the data from to ask such questions? Can you verify that whatever data service you are using has "good" information? June 23, 2008 5:24 PM

Thanks Marshall. Just for the record, we’re not asking “political party affiliation” as you suggest nor are we asking other sensitive question like religion, charitable donations or things like that (see Kip’s comment on the ID post from the other day). Based on the publicly available data we’re using, we have a range of questions and it’s not a one strike and you’re out procedure. There are a number of questions we ask simply to determine if you are who you say you are. That’s it.

Because of the number of questions that could be asked, we’re also preventing someone from memorizing a simple set of facts to game the system.

Anonymous said... The average length of time for these ridiculous checks tells us nothing. What was the longest length of time you detained a citizen seeking to travel by air who did not have an ID? What was the shortest? June 23, 2008 5:40 PM

I feel like the average length of time is an important data point on how this is going. That said, the longest length of time we took to make an identity verification decision was 47 minutes. Yes that’s a long time and may have caused that one individual to miss his or her flight. The quickest is in the seconds.

Don’t know if the person waiting 47 minutes was a citizen or not but detained is not an accurate term either.

Boy, this anonymous character sure asks a lot of questions. :)

Travel_Medic said... how is checking IDs add anything to security when they are not compared to any list. June 23, 2008 7:31 PM

Hello Doc. You are compared to no-fly and selectee lists by the airlines. Verifying identity is an additional layer of security because it is added to the other layers…namely travel document checkers and the airlines checks against the above mentioned two watch lists. By doing all three, we’re verifying people are who they say they are, they are not on the no-fly list and their documents are legit.

Just yesterday (July 1), we identified a passenger with a fake social security card. Last week, we found a fraudulent passport. Altered documents are a staple of criminal and terrorist activity. We’re playing offense here and not giving free shots to a patient enemy.

Bob Eucher said... What became of the 20 people that were considered "too dangerous to fly"? Arrested? Let go? June 23, 2008 8:09 PM

Bob, I loved you in Major League (yes the last name is spelled differently but it was too close to resist). We’re not saying these people are “too dangerous to fly.” We’re saying we can’t verify they are who they say they are.

You and others might not care who sits next to you on that plane but we do.


TROLLKILLER…MY VOICE IS GETTING TIRED FROM SCREAMING. Our attorneys interpret ATSA as saying we can do this, we think it’s important so we’re doing this. I’m not an Internet-based attorney but I probably could play one on TV.

Anonymous said... Again, if the airlines need to verify whether the person boarding the plane is the correct person, they could ask for ID at the gate. But why get the government involved in this? June 23, 2008 10:30 PM

The government is involved in this because we’re charged with aviation security. The airlines were charged with aviation security until TSA was formed in late 2001. We partner with said airlines to ensure no-flys aren’t getting on planes and that we do know who is. We supplement that with trained document checkers, identity verification, behavior detection officers and more than 15 other layers of security.

Anonymous said... So it only took 48 hours before the first reported instance of a question about political affiliation being required. I'll make two predictions: 1) The TSA employees who did this will never be reprimanded in any serious manner; the worst thing they will face will be some additional "training". June 23, 2008 10:35 PM

Nostranonymous, I think Kip was pretty clear when he wrote, “"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."

The person that did this made a mistake and has been corrected. Hope you never make a mistake at your job.

Anonymous said... Just out of curiosity, do you guys run my credit report if I show up with no ID? That's the only way I can think of you'd be able to validate I am who I say I am. June 23, 2008 10:46 PM

No. We’re not concerned about that Columbia House bill you never paid in college. We use publicly available info to verify you are who you say you are. It’s taking about 6 minutes for the .00005 percent of people that show up without ID every day.

Andy said... TSA, Question 1: You repeatedly claim this helps improve no-fly list enforcement. As we have told you over and over again, the ID checkers aren't checking names against a list. They're just comparing the name against the boarding pass, and the face to the ID. So, how exactly does this new policy enhance the NFL enforcement?

Andy, you can tell me “over and over again” that document checkers don’t check against the no-fly list and it’s still not the point. Airlines check against the no-fly, trained document checkers check validity of IDs, we verify identity of those without ID. The three work in combination.

You can say 1 plus 1 equals 7 a thousand times and it still doesn’t make it so.

Also, at the risk of hijacking this thread, we are also working on assuming responsibility for watch list matching from the airlines through our Secure Flight program. We believe this will also strengthen the watch list matching and greatly reduce the misidentifications that occur today.

Question 2: What exactly was wrong with the old policy (claim you have no ID, you get a SSSS and you're on your way)? We technically can still do that, and remember when there's a will, there's a way. There's no such thing as perfect security.

You’re 100 percent right on this on point Andy. There is no such thing as perfect security. The combo of the three layers above is better that the old system when anyone shows up, says “no ID” they get screened and go on their merry way. Keeping no-flys off planes is good security and simply patting down someone does not verify identity.

Question 3: Why are you targeting those who simply refuse to show ID? Some people refuse to show ID because of: identify theft concerns; religious reasons; self-privacy reasons; and/or their own principle. We are free people here in the USA, and we have a right not to show ID. People can lie and say they lost their ID, and get by, but those truly wanting to stand up for their rights will be punished. Is there a political connection to this? I think it's blatantly obvious what your purpose is here, TSA. June 24, 2008 5:08 PM

No political connection Andy, none at all. It’s all about strengthening security. There’s no “targeting.” People are showing up without ID and we’re verifying identity, simple as that. We believe we have the legal authority and we believe this increases security.

Anonymous said... Seriously, what happens if you are a physically disabled person and you've never had an official, government-issued photo ID made because you don't drive or use other services that require such ID? I know of several people with seizure disorders and severe dyslexia who have never gotten a state ID because they simply didn't need one. Their sole photo IDs were their college IDs - nothing official or certified. June 25, 2008 7:41 PM

No problem anon, we work with these individuals to establish their identity just like we would anyone else.

yangj08 said... How are you going to deal with foreign passports? I've already heard of someone having to go through a secondary because the TSO at an airport didn't recognize his Dutch passport. He had to go through a secondary (even though he had valid ID). So what happens to those people (especially if it's someone that doesn't speak English very well)? June 26, 2008 2:14 PM

Apples and oranges Yang. If a passenger has legit ID, including a Dutch passport, off they go. Being subjected to additional screening is not the same as verifying ID.

Anonymous said... Can you please elaborate on how the false positive problem will be addressed? I am currently on the Selectee list (and fed up with it) and want to know how soon this madness will end. June 27, 2008 9:04 AM

Well, anonymous does appear to be a very common name so it might just be a misidentification…Honestly, false positives on the selectee list is a different matter. One we’re planning on addressing on the blog in the next few weeks.

I do encourage you to apply for redress at: You’ll also be glad to know (hopefully) that we’re in the process of taking over watch list matching and that will greatly (like 99 percent or greater) reduce misidentifications, which you are much more likely to be rather than a real-deal selectee.

Anonymous said... If they have no weapons, why does it matter WHO they are?
June 27, 2008 2:42 PM

Ah, this is the key argument. We honestly believe that identity is as important as going through the metal detector. Our partners in the law enforcement and intelligence communities work tirelessly and in some cases under great physical danger to identify individuals that pose a threat to aviation. The simple truth is that it would be negligent to not use this information to our advantage.

*** Anonymous said... How can requiring ID fit within our constitutional rights?

We’ve answered this repeatedly. Our position is that Gilmore v. Gonzalez affirmed our ability to require ID for transportation via air and the law that formed TSA, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) empowers the TSA to make these decisions.

How are the watch lists being improved? How did they come together in the first place? June 27, 2008 6:17 PM

While the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the lists and TSA is a customer of the no-fly and selectee lists we have worked closely with them to make the lists we use as useful as possible.

As was widely reported several months ago, TSC with TSA’s assistance completed a name by name scrub of the lists (no fly and selectee) and reduced them significantly. This reduces the number of misidentifications, making the list more effective.

As I have also said earlier, we’re also working to assume watch list matching from the airlines and this will have a great impact on the effectiveness of the watch lists.

means to authenticate the passenger's boarding pass.) June 27, 2008 6:50 PM

Abelard said...

1. If requiring ID is truly instrumental in keeping the flying public safe, why did it take the TSA until June of 2008 to institute that policy?

Good question Abelard. We’ve been increasing layers of security for years and now that TSA officers check documents at every airport in the country, we’ve effectively moved the issue and are trying to address this threat.

2. What will the TSA due if a majority of the states refuse to issue READ ID cards to their respective citizens?

What’s READ ID? :) We’re already reading IDs…

We will be prepared to address that issue if it happens. Thusfar, every state in the union is working with DHS on REAL ID.

3. In general, what disciplinary action will be taken against a TSO who asks someone questions regarding their religion or political beliefs in order to verify their identity?

The officer is not coming up with the questions, our 24/7 security operations center is using publicly available databases to determine the most appropriate questions. We’ve already said we don’t see the types of questions you bring up as appropriate.

1) Since anyone can photoshop a boarding pass to match their ID, couldn't someone just buy a ticket under any old name, change their boarding pass, and then proceed through security, with their own, legit ID, since none of your employees are checking the boarding passes to see if a) they're legit, or b) if the person whose name is on it is on your "no fly" list?

Why do that when someone could just print a fake boarding pass at home? That’s why we have these layers I keep talking about. No-fly passenger forges boarding pass at home, shows up and has to beat document checkers, behavior detection officers, and the other layers. No self respecting terrorist is going to say “no ID” when he/she knows they’ll get the extra attention this process now entails.

See, we’re doing is forcing people with bad intentions into additional layers of security here.

2)What happens when someone truly forgets their ID, and the company you contract out with to verify has the wrong information?

We don’t contract out with anybody. TSA employees at our ops center verify the identity with publicly available databases.

3) How does this stop someone who is not a known terrorist?

Totally clean skins are still subjected to the other layers of security, particularly behavior detection officers.

4) Why, in their right mind, would a known terrorist use a legitimate ID to buy their ticket? Wouldn't they just get a good fake?

My sentiments exactly. See above.

5) What if someone is a forgetful many times can they have forgotten their ID?? June 27, 2008 10:09 PM

As many as they want….

Hope these answers helped clear up our position and why we think this is so important. As I wrote in the beginning, it’s perfectly acceptable for rational, intelligent people to disagree on important issues.


EoS Blog Team