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TSA's airline passenger identification policies

TSA's airline passenger identification policies

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Old Sep 2, 10, 7:12 pm
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Exclamation TSA's airline passenger identification policies

People regularly come to FlyerTalk Forums with questions about the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's policies regarding identification of airline passengers at TSA airport barricades (their "security checkpoints"). This is not surprising, as TSA are known to publish inaccurate and misleading information about passenger identification, and to refuse to correct inaccurate publications. I've repeatedly posted the following information in response to questions raised on FlyerTalk. Upon the suggestion of another FT'er, I'm starting a new thread with this information and will henceforth reference this thread instead of repeating myself. If anyone finds inaccuracies in what I've written or has related information to add, please speak up, and I'll modify as appropriate.

Moderators: please consider stickying this thread.



Following is what I've been able to find out about TSA's policies regarding airline passenger identification (last updated 2010-09-02):

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.

For more on showing I.D. in the general sense, please see the Identity Project's "What's Wrong With Showing I.D.?" page.

Previous discussion on FlyerTalk

For more on TSA airport I.D. policies, see also the following FT threads (the fifth of which is what brought me to FlyerTalk for the first time; I'm the subject of that April 8, 2008, article on the front page of the Kansas City Star):

Last edited by pmocek; Jan 19, 11 at 10:54 pm Reason: link to another related thread
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Old Sep 2, 10, 7:43 pm
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With the new Enhance Pat Down including the groping of the genitals why not just go whole hog and make TSA work hard to clear each person.

TSA is already engaged in illegal searches, sexual assault and no telling what else.

TSA claims they are our side!
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Old Sep 2, 10, 7:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
With the new Enhance Pat Down including the groping of the genitals why not just go whole hog and make TSA work hard to clear each person.

TSA is already engaged in illegal searches, sexual assault and no telling what else.

TSA claims they are our side!
But they are. Remember, "Your Safety is our Priority" They have all had background checks, so what's to worry about?
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Old Sep 2, 10, 8:34 pm
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Originally Posted by Boggie Dog View Post
With the new Enhance Pat Down including the groping of the genitals why not just go whole hog and make TSA work hard to clear each person.
Some people think that's a good idea, and others think that's just a waste of time.

Let's keep this on-topic so people who seek information about TSA's ID policies can find it, and so anyone who thinks the information I've posted needs revision can say so.
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Old Sep 2, 10, 9:12 pm
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I stopped reading after this:

" 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."

As it is entirely incorrect. In previous threads I have tried to explain that this is incorrect, and why. But you stubbornly refuse to accept what i have post.

Keep up the good work, Phil.

And I will not post in this thread again. What's the point?

Last edited by essxjay; Sep 3, 10 at 1:42 am Reason: no need to quote entire OP
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Old Sep 2, 10, 9:22 pm
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Originally Posted by SATTSO View Post
I stopped reading after this:

" 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."

As it is entirely incorrect.
Please correct me. Saying that a whole paragraph is "entirely incorrect" is not very helpful. What, specifically, do you dispute? The clarity? That a boarding pass is all the documentation required for domestic flights? That passengers are not required to present identity credentials to TSA staff in order to cross the checkpoint? That presenting identity credentials at the checkpoint is optional? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with a less-thorough search of their belongings? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with fewer questions from TSA? Best I can tell, these are all the case.

If you've explained before, please explain one last time, in this thread, which was created for just such a discussion.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 1:49 pm
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any input from TSA staff regarding TSA's passenger ID policies?

Originally Posted by pmocek View Post
Originally Posted by SATTSO View Post
In previous threads I have tried to explain that this is incorrect, and why. But you stubbornly refuse to accept what i have post.
Please correct me. Saying that a whole paragraph is "entirely incorrect" is not very helpful. What, specifically, do you dispute? The clarity? That a boarding pass is all the documentation required for domestic flights? That passengers are not required to present identity credentials to TSA staff in order to cross the checkpoint? That presenting identity credentials at the checkpoint is optional? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with a less-thorough search of their belongings? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with fewer questions from TSA? Best I can tell, these are all the case.

If you've explained before, please explain one last time, in this thread, which was created for just such a discussion.
SATTSO?

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Old Sep 7, 10, 4:41 pm
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There is a big poster on the wall (near the entry door) of Delta's SkyClub in concourse E at ATL lecturing us about how it is so important for security purposes that everyone over 18 show picture ID when traveling. Looked to me like a DL poster, not a TSA poster.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 7:06 pm
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passenger told ty TSA that he must be licensed to drive in order to fly

On September 7, 2010, Morcheeba wrote:
Originally Posted by morcheeba View Post
I use a New York non-driver photo ID card for identification, which is usually accepted without any hassles.

Last week on a business trip to flyover country, though, I got some major pushback at the airport. When I presented my state ID card, I was told, "I need to see your driver's license."

I explained that I don't have one, and the response was, "You've got to be s__tting me. An adult without a driver's license? Do you understand how suspicious that is? What, did you get a DUI or something?"

When informed of my disability, the response was, "Well, that's not my f__king fault, is it?"

Eventually I got a supervisor involved, who resolved the situation. But as I prepared to move on, he discreetly said, "Look, do me a favor and get a passport card for next time."
I've quoted this as evidence of confusion over TSA policy among both passengers and TSA staff. [EDIT: Morcheeba later said that it was an airline ticket counter clerk who said this.] I suggest conducting any discussion of that particular incident in the other thread, and keeping this thread focused on figuring out what, if any, identification of passengers TSA require those passengers to participate in.

Last edited by pmocek; Sep 8, 10 at 11:01 am Reason: note Morcheeba's update
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Old Sep 7, 10, 7:13 pm
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Originally Posted by pmocek View Post
On September 7, 2010, Morcheeba wrote:


I've quoted this as evidence of confusion over TSA policy among both passengers and TSA staff. I suggest conducting any discussion of that particular incident in the other thread, and keeping this thread focused on figuring out what, if any, identification of passengers TSA require those passengers to participate in.
The person you quoted has now said in the thread that this was not TSA, it was the airline worker at the ticket counter who said this.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 9:20 pm
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Originally Posted by pmocek View Post
Please correct me. Saying that a whole paragraph is "entirely incorrect" is not very helpful. What, specifically, do you dispute? The clarity? That a boarding pass is all the documentation required for domestic flights? That passengers are not required to present identity credentials to TSA staff in order to cross the checkpoint? That presenting identity credentials at the checkpoint is optional? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with a less-thorough search of their belongings? That electing to do so allows passengers through the checkpoint with fewer questions from TSA? Best I can tell, these are all the case.

If you've explained before, please explain one last time, in this thread, which was created for just such a discussion.
You HAVE to show a Government issued approved form of photo identification in order to access the security checkpoint. There is an alternative method of verification of id but any wrenches in this process and you dont get in. END OF STORY. Also it has nothing to do with how thoroughly you are searched.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 10:02 pm
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Originally Posted by eyecue View Post
You HAVE to show a Government issued approved form of photo identification in order to access the security checkpoint. There is an alternative method of verification of id but any wrenches in this process and you dont get in. END OF STORY. Also it has nothing to do with how thoroughly you are searched.
Sorry, but your first two sentences cannot both be true. If someone HAS to show gov't issued ID to get into the secure area, then they HAVE to. Your first sentence does not allow for any exceptions. If there is a way to get into the secure area WITHOUT showing gov't issued photo ID, then you don't "HAVE to" show such ID.

What is really meant, and what Phil has (repeatedly and clearly) said is "You have to show a gov't issued photo ID OR go through an alternative verification process (which may or may not be sufficient to allow entrance to the sterile area)." I know TSA would like to keep saying "You MUST show an ID." as a standalone statement rather than offering the alternative in the same breath, because it makes the alternative less visible. Nevertheless, even you are admitting that there is an alternative to showing a photo ID.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 10:04 pm
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Originally Posted by eyecue View Post
You HAVE to show a Government issued approved form of photo identification in order to access the security checkpoint.
Could you cite your source of this information, please?

Originally Posted by eyecue View Post
Also it has nothing to do with how thoroughly you are searched.
It's my understanding that people who show ID will walk through the metal detector and have their belongings searched by X-ray, and people who do not show ID will also be frisked and will also have their belongings searched by hand. Do you disagree? I consider the latter to be a more thorough search. Do you disagree?
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Old Sep 7, 10, 11:03 pm
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Originally Posted by RadioGirl View Post
Sorry, but your first two sentences cannot both be true. If someone HAS to show gov't issued ID to get into the secure area, then they HAVE to. Your first sentence does not allow for any exceptions. If there is a way to get into the secure area WITHOUT showing gov't issued photo ID, then you don't "HAVE to" show such ID.

What is really meant, and what Phil has (repeatedly and clearly) said is "You have to show a gov't issued photo ID OR go through an alternative verification process (which may or may not be sufficient to allow entrance to the sterile area)." I know TSA would like to keep saying "You MUST show an ID." as a standalone statement rather than offering the alternative in the same breath, because it makes the alternative less visible. Nevertheless, even you are admitting that there is an alternative to showing a photo ID.
And that alternative is more through and what many here would consider "intrusive" than showing ID...and of course I'm leaving other things out because I can not write about it. However, if someone were to refuse to show ID, that's about it. They will not be allowed through the checkpoint, despite the alternative verification process...in fact, I looked it up today to confirm, and if someone were to REFUSE to show ID the alternative verification process is not available to them.

The alternative is because people have their identification lost and/or stolen; crap happens. It is not for refusals to show ID.
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Old Sep 7, 10, 11:13 pm
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and just for grins, let's read what it says at TSA.GOV

SHORT version (scroll down 2/3 of page)
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtrav...xperience.shtm

The items you'll need to present to a Transportation Security Officer at the checkpoint are:

Boarding pass
Identification (click here to see a list of acceptable IDs)
We encourage each adult traveler to keep his/her airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID available until exiting the security checkpoint (children are not required to show identification).

If you do not have identification (if it is lost, stolen, etc.), you will be required to provide the document checking officer with some information to help verify your identity. This will slow down your screening process and will result in additional screening.
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LONG VERSION:

http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtrav...documents.shtm

Effective June 21, 2008, adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID that contains the following: name, date of birth, gender, expiration date and a tamper-resistant feature in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.

Passengers who do not or cannot present an acceptable ID will have to provide information to the Transportation Security Officer performing Travel Document Checking duties in order to verify their identity. Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening. Passengers whose identity cannot be verified by TSA may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or onto an airplane.

Acceptable IDs include:

Acceptable Documents


Click here to view a
full-size version.U.S. passport
U.S. passport card
DHS "Trusted Traveler" cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
Permanent Resident Card
Border Crossing Card
DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) that meets REAL ID benchmarks (All states are currently in compliance)
A Native American Tribal Photo ID
An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
A foreign government-issued passport
Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
Non-US/Canadian citizens are not required to carry their passports if they have documents issued by the U.S. government such as Permanent Resident Cards. Those who do not should be carrying their passports while visiting the U.S.

This standardization of the list of accepted documents better aligns TSA with other DHS components, including Customs and Border Protection, and REAL ID benchmarks.

____________________________

The part I'd like clarified (edit-SATTSO did try above, as I was posting)
(if it is lost, stolen, etc.), What is the etc? It could only be expired, correct? As SAT just noted failure to show does not fall into this list. Why the etc if it is only 3 reasons? What could the other reasons be?


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