Monday, June 22, 2009

St. Louis Incident Update

In April, I blogged about an incident in St. Louis where a passenger’s cash box was searched.

Since this is in the news again, I thought I would write a quick recap with some updates.

On March 29th, a metal box containing a large amount of coins and cash was flagged for additional screening. Any large amount of metallic objects in one place (loose change or rolls of coins) appear as opaque images and are difficult and sometimes impossible to clear without being searched. I blogged about this type of search last October. If we can’t see through something on the x-ray, we have to take a closer look by opening the box/bag. Due to the contents, the passenger was taken to a private screening area which is customary when screening money or high dollar value items such as jewelry.

While it’s legal to travel with any amount of money you wish to carry when flying domestically, movements of large amounts of cash through the checkpoint may be investigated by law enforcement authorities if suspicious activity is suspected. As a general rule, passengers are required to cooperate with the screening process. Cooperation may involve answering questions about their property. A passenger who refuses to answer questions may be referred to appropriate authorities for further inquiry. When traveling internationally, a passenger must file a report with U.S. Customs when flying with amounts exceeding $10,000. (or its foreign equivalent)

A TSA employee and members of the St. Louis Airport Police Department can be heard on the audio recording. TSA holds its employees to the highest professional standards. The tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate and proper disciplinary action was taken.

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

Thursday, June 18, 2009

TSA Paperless Boarding Pass Pilot Expanding

We’ve talked about this before, but the paperless boarding pass pilot program is picking up steam and I thought I’d give you an update.

It was just rolled out at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. Check out the press conference with CVG Federal Security Director Paul Wisniewski and Delta Field Director Paul Baird, along with a brief demonstration.

The program rolled out in 2007 and is now operating at the following 20 airports:

Atlanta Hartsfield International (ATL), Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS), Boston Logan International (BOS), Chicago O-Hare International (ORD), Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International (CVG),Cleveland Hopkins (CLE), Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County (DTW), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Indianapolis International (IND), John Wayne, Orange County, CA (SNA), Las Vegas McCarren (LAS), Los Angeles International (LAX), Memphis (MEM), Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Newark International (EWR), Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Salt Lake City International (SLC), San Antonio International (SAT), Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA)

Alaska: SEA
American: ORD, SNA, LAX
Continental: IAH, DCA, EWR, BOS, AUS, SAT, CLE, LGA, LAS
Delta/Northwest: ATL, LAS, MEM, MSP, DET, SLC, CVG
Delta only: LGA
Northwest only: IND

So what do we mean by paperless? Are boarding passes being made out of plastic? Nope… Passengers will be able to receive their boarding passes on their cell phones or PDAs.

Why are we doing this? Well, it’s hip to be green, right? That’s kind of cool, but this has some other perks. First off, you don’t have to worry about that troublesome boarding pass any longer. Now the boarding pass is your phone. You’re far less likely to lose your phone than you are your tickets.

The paperless boarding pass will also prevent fraudulent paper boarding passes that could be created and printed from home.

The paperless boarding pass has a two dimensional state of the art tamper resistant super duper bar code as well as your name and flight information. Our Travel Document Checkers (TDCs) will scan your paperless boarding pass as seen in the video above.

I bet you’re wondering how the two dimensional state of the art tamper resistant super duper bar code works? I can’t just give something a title like that and not take the time to explain it, can I?

Unlike the usual one dimensional single line bar code you would normally see on a box of Cap'n Crunch, this bar code is two dimensional. The encrypted code contains passenger information as well as authentication information from the airline that can only be decoded by a TSA scanner. TSA is also working with the airlines to create the same type of bar code for those who choose to use paper boarding passes. How is it tamper resistant you might ask? Well, I guess you could manipulate the code if you really wanted to, but the scanner will detect any sign of tampering.

As long as youre phone/PDA can receive and open attachments and you’re flying out of one of the airports listed above on a participating airline on the second Tuesday of the month, you can take part in this pilot program. (OK, I was kidding about the second Tuesday of the month…)

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Camping, Hunting & Fishing Gear On a Plane

I received an e-mail from someone today asking about bear mace, and thought maybe I should write a blog post for all of you summer campers, hunters and fishermen out there. (And in case you didn’t know, bear mace is more effective than a gun, as bullet wounds usually just make bears more aggressive)

Summer is here and people are heading for the sticks. (Via a jetliner) You either like to rough it like me and pack nothing but a loincloth and flint & steel, or you go to your local sporting goods store and max out your card on all the latest camping gear.

So listed here are some popular camping items with a quick note as to whether or not you can take them on a plane: 

Animal repellants can go in your checked luggage if the volume is less than 4 ounces and its active ingredient is less than 2%. Bear Mace usually exceeds these limits. 

Camp Stoves can go in either your carry-on or checked bag. Oh yeah, you do have to empty the fuel first. (It has happened) 

Insect repellents that are sprayed on the skin are considered a personal use item and are permitted in carry-on (3-1-1 applies) and checked baggage. 

Insecticides that are used to kill little creepy crawlies (Ant killers, cockroach killers, spider killers etc) are prohibited altogether." 

Empty Gas Cylinders are allowed in checked or carry-on bags as long as the regulator valve is removed and we can see inside. 

Flare Guns are allowed in your checked baggage, but they have to be stored and declared just like a regular firearm. The flares are a no go and have to be purchased at your destination.

TSA allows fishing poles, but if you’re taking them as a carry-on, you might want to give your airline a ringy-dingy and see if the pole exceeds their carry-on limits. Tackle is OK as a carry-on, but just be sure that you don’t have any knives or large deep sea fishing hooks. Also, tools can’t be larger than 7 inches. 

Spear Guns. Umm…yeah Captain Nemo, these can’t go in the cabin, but you can check them in the belly of the plane. 

Bow & Arrows. See Spear guns… 

Guns & Ammo are allowed to be checked in the belly of the plane as long as you follow the proper procedures. 

Safety Matches are allowed in your carry-on luggage one pack per passenger per FAA safety regulations. Strike anywhere matches (I love to light those from my boot heel) are not allowed at all. 

Lighters were once banned, but are now permitted in your carry-on as of August, 2007. Torch lighters are still prohibited. 

Hatchets and Survival Knives are permitted in your checked baggage, but not permitted in your carry-on.

If you’re planning on participating and camping out at a renaissance festival this summer, we ask that you kindly not carry your broadsword through the checkpoint. Suits of armor are also frowned upon. Did they have jets in the renaissance period?

I hope you have a great time this summer! 

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team 

***Update 6/11 @ 3:20 PM*** 

The original line that read “Bug Spray along with insecticides are not allowed in your checked or carry-on bags” has been edited to: 

Insect repellents that are sprayed on the skin are considered a personal use item and are permitted in carry-on (3-1-1 applies) and checked baggage. 

Insecticides that are used to kill little creepy crawlies (Ant killers, cockroach killers, spider killers etc) are prohibited altogether. 

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is TSA Really Taking Fingerprints of Passengers???

I’ve been seeing this around the blogosphere, so I thought I’d attempt to clear this up a little bit.

Is TSA Really Taking Fingerprints from Passengers??? Yes, but only at Atlanta checkpoints from non-US citizens leaving the country. Our sister component, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is conducting the same tests in Detroit.

This is all part of the Department of Homeland Security’s US VISIT pilot program. Fingerprints (biometrics) are already collected from incoming non-US citizens applying for visas and also at ports of entry and are used to stop criminals and immigration violators. Exit prints will help identify when non-US citizens exit the country, how long they’ve been here, or if somebody has stayed in the states illegally.

TSA is assisting with this pilot program and fingerprints about 800 passengers at ATL daily.

The US VISIT pilot program will end in July. The Department of Homeland Security plans on launching the new exit procedures within the next year.

By the way, these are digital fingerprints, so you don’t have to worry about ending up with an accidental ink mustache or a trendy fingerprint patterned shirt or tie. For more information on US VISIT, you can read the press release , web page, or the privacy impact assessment.


TSA Blog Team

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Secure Flight Q & A

Paul recently blogged about Secure Flight. Since then, the fine folks from the Secure Flight program have been monitoring the comments and have been kind enough to answer some of your questions.

So here goes…

Q: We’ve still never gotten a definitive answer on what law compels travelers to reveal all this personal information. ~ Adrian

A: The 9/11 Commission Report recommended that TSA take over watch list matching from the airlines. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 codified this recommendation and requires DHS and TSA to assume pre-flight comparisons of airline passenger information to federal government watch lists. TSA is implementing the Secure Flight program to meet this Congressional mandate. The Secure Flight Final Rule provides the regulatory authority for the implementation of the Secure Flight program.

Q: Also, how else will this information be used? Will the airlines be allowed (or compelled) to keep all of this personal information about us? Will the TSA or other government agency be building a database of the times we fly? ~ Adrian

A: TSA collects as little personal information as possible to conduct effective watch list matching. Also, personal data is collected, used, distributed, stored, and disposed of in accordance with stringent guidelines and all applicable privacy laws and regulations. Secure Flight has published an updated Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) in conjunction with the Final Rule and System of Records Notice (SORN) published in the Federal Register, August 23, 2007 provide detailed information about the program’s privacy approach. TSA does not collect or use commercial data to conduct Secure Flight watch list matching. Data elements collected under Secure Flight will only be retained for seven days if the traveler is not a match to the No Fly or Selectee lists. For these travelers, all data will be purged from TSA systems after seven days. For travelers who are identified as a potential match, but later determined to not be an exact match to the watch list, data will be retained for seven years. Data elements for individuals identified as an exact match to a No Fly or Selectee terrorist record will be retained for law enforcement purposes for 99 years by Secure Flight.

Q: When one is mistakenly added to the Selectee or No Fly lists, how do they get off? ~ Adrian

A: If you were able to obtain a boarding pass, your name is not on the No Fly list. Redress is an opportunity for passengers who believe they have been improperly or unfairly delayed or prohibited from boarding an aircraft to seek resolution and avoid future delays. The affected passengers often have the same or a similar name to someone on the watch list. The DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) provides a one-stop shop for passengers seeking redress. Secure Flight uses the results of the redress process in its watch list matching process to help prevent future delays for misidentified passengers.

Q: How do people who do not have a government-issued photo ID deal with these rules? Getting a government-issued photo ID typically requires a birth certificate. My great grandmother’s birth certificate was lost in a court house fire decades ago, and she never had a driver’s license or passport. ~ Adrian

A: Federal regulations require that passengers present a government-issued photo ID during the check-in and screening process. If a passenger doesn’t have a government-issued ID, it is recommend they take the necessary steps to obtain one. It just makes sense to take a couple of hours to get a Government ID to avoid delay at security checkpoints while TSA confirms their identity and ensures they do not pose a threat to security.

Q: It's funny that many ticketing websites don't allow you to use your full middle name, yet the state asks for you to do it. This is nothing but a pain and more security theater. Thanks for making sure the lines get longer at security. Will you be adding staff to deal with it? Or will you continue to have too few checkpoints open at most airports? You're worse than Target! Q: Did TSA check with travel and airline web sites to give them time to update their data fields before adopting this policy? My wife went to Orbitz today to change her profile name and Orbitz only has space for a middle initial. But both her driver's license and my passport list her full name. How are we supposed to handle things like this? My wife also checked with and they don't even offer a spot for a middle initial. I expect this new TSA policy has been planned for years. If so, why didn't TSA give the airlines and travel agencies time to update their records? What in the world is the hurry?

A: Secure Flight will be phased-in and each airline will be incorporating the necessary changes into their systems over the next few months. Passengers shouldn't be concerned if particular airlines or travel websites don't ask them to provide the additional information right away or if they’re not yet able to accept full name or other information required by Secure Flight; it should not impact their travel. Members of the travel industry will request this information as their capability to capture it is integrated into their individual systems. As for longer lines at airport security, Secure Flight will not impact the process at the security checkpoint in any way. At the security checkpoint, TSA strives to ensure you are who you say you are. TSA performs travel document checking to see that you, your identification, and your boarding pass match and are valid. Secure Flight, on the other hand, is a behind-the-scenes process that TSA and airlines collaborate on to compare the information you provide against government watch lists. The additional data elements that you may be asked to provide, such as date of birth and gender, serve to better differentiate you from individuals on the government watch list. Secure Flight will not impact the security checkpoint experience. While Secure Flight and travel document checking are both critical security functions, they serve different purposes at different points in the security process.

Q: My passport/passport card driver's license and credit cards differ in how they display my name (full middle name, middle initial, not indicator of middle name), so this may take some fiddling to make certain things match up for the TSA folks. One interesting thing none of those show is that actual CORRECT spelling of my name, because most US font sets do not include Slavic diacritic marks... ~ Tomáš

A: Passengers should ensure that the name used when making a reservation matches their government-issued ID used when traveling. Depending on which government ID you plan to use for a particular trip, you should provide your name as it appears on that ID for your travel. TSA has built some flexibility into the processes regarding passenger name accuracy. For the near future, small differences between the passenger’s ID and the passenger’s reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, should not cause a problem for you. Over time, you should strive to obtain consistency between the name on your ID and your travel information.

A big thanks goes out to the Secure Flight program office. By the way, check out the press release about the new Ad Council campaign aimed at raising awareness of Secure Flight.

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team