TSA Tightens Security - Unnecessarily - Again

Have you ever traveled with the fear that you might lose your ID and will be unable to board your return flight? It turns out that the highly classified, super-secret TSA rules actually permit you to get on the plane without an ID, as long as you submit to additional screening (and provided you find a TSA employee who actually knows what the super-secret rules say).

That remarkably reasonable policy is changing.

Beginning Saturday, June 21, travelers ... who "willfully refuse" to show IDs won't be allowed through checkpoints or onto planes. Only passengers who show IDs, and "cooperative" passengers who explain why their IDs are missing and help police confirm their identities, will get through.

The policy change invites abuse by giving TSA the discretion to decide (based on nothing more than a whim, or worse, a prejudice) who is being "cooperative." It also further diminishes the right to travel. [more ...]

The right to free travel -- unencumbered by government officials demanding identity documents -- is "something that distinguishes ourselves from others not living in the free world," said Jim Harrison, an attorney who has fought document requirements.

"History will judge," Harrison said. "What's going on here is the TSA is incrementally chipping away at the freedoms that Americans have. And the freedoms that we're talking about are the fundamental right to travel, the freedom to be free of search without reasonable suspicion and your First Amendment freedoms to assemble and associate freely without government interference."

If TSA deems you "cooperative," you might still be allowed to take your flight, but look what you'll have to put up with:

TSA says that under the new policy, all people without IDs will face varying security measures, from pat-downs to interviews with behavior detection officers.

"Behavior detection" is the latest fad in the junk science that law enforcement agencies devour. Can agents really "detect" terrorists by means of an interview? No terrorist would be so idiotic as to invite attention by boarding a plane without an ID in the first place. It's the behavior of ordinary fliers that TSA will be "detecting."

The right to be free from search without probable cause -- a right you waive when you board a plane -- is also taking a hit. It no longer matters to TSA whether you actually intend to board the plane.

Privacy advocates also question a second recent TSA policy change. In the Gilmore ruling, the judge noted that if Gilmore wanted to avoid a search he thought was unconstitutional, he could have merely walked away. But the TSA now says passengers cannot refuse a search once they have entered the checkpoint area.

What's the point of searching people who aren't getting on the plane? What's next? Searching everyone who enters the airport?

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  • Display: Sort:
    Security theater (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 10:32:05 AM EST

    Between the TSA and the airlines.... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 10:42:38 AM EST
    flying has become unbareable.

    I think the only security we need on planes is impenetrable cockpit doors and bomb screening for luggage.  The rest is all for show and hassles.

    You don't even need screening (none / 0) (#6)
    by dianem on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 11:19:00 AM EST
    Just put the luggage into blast-proof containers. It might still be necessary to do minimal screening to make sure that nothing that can get past the container is going through, but any extra fuel costs will be negated by the decreased security needs.  

    Blast proof containers are not the answer. (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by GorobeiTheTrue on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 09:22:01 PM EST
    Blast-proof containers really are not a solution.  Had to create an account just to answer you: I used to have an US explosives permit (a LEUP,) and thus have a bit of expertise in this area.

    A good rule-of-thumb scale for high explosives is:

    1. a 1kg charge will destroy a car.
    2. a 10kg charge will destroy a house.
    3. a 100kg charge will destory a tank.

    Blast-resistant containers save you at level 1.  At level 2, they are just confetti.  

    If an airline thinks something is suspicious, they just won't load it on the plane.  

    Blast-resistant containers are heavy.  It would be cheaper to separate passengers and luggage:  fly luggage as unscreened freight on cargo planes, and passengers on smaller planes.


    Yes, I Agree (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 09:33:08 PM EST
    It does seem silly also that the containers are very expensive ($20,000 as opposed to $1,000 for the normal ones), they last only one year, are very heavy so that they add $$$$ in fuel cost to a flight, and no passenger airplanes in the US can fit them as they are too big and only designed for cargo planes.

    The 9/11 commission recommended having one of these on cargo flights for suspicious items. As you point out it is absurd because anything suspicious will not ever go on the plane, period.


    Inexorable trend to mandatory ID (none / 0) (#4)
    by wurman on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 10:59:11 AM EST
    This looks like another step in a process that leads to the equivalent of Europe's carte d'identite for all travel.

    From age 14, I have worked at jobs & done various things that invariably required instant, verifiable identification.  I'm not certain that a person's "rights" are jeapordized by ID laws--though I can perceive the problems with requiring voter IDs for some groups of people.

    My opinion, based on a lot of experience, is that the key element is the "stop & search" behaviors that follow the ID requirement.  If I want to operate a motor vehicle, a license is required.  If I want to get on a flight, ID is required.  Ship?? Train??? Taxicab???? Bicycle????? At some point, this becomes stupid.

    Perhaps the USA is already past the point of stupidity.

    I was flying out of South Africa... (none / 0) (#5)
    by dianem on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 11:12:51 AM EST
    ...Spring, 2002. The plane was delayed on take off. We were told that a passenger had checked in and then lost his passport while waiting for the plane to load. He was not allowed to board the plane, and his luggage had to be removed since no luggage was allowed on planes without the accompanying passenger. I thought it was silly then and now - the bad guys are willing to die to make their point, why would they want to bring attention to themselves with this kind of silly game?

    And don't even get me started on the "no water on planes" nonsense. Now that they're starting to charge for drinks and luggage... I'm just wondering how long until they ban using the restroom on any flights less than 2 hours (or charging a premium for restroom privileges).

    Well there was that poor slob.... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 11:48:29 AM EST
    that one airline made sit in the bathroom for the entire flight because a flight attendant was uncomfortable in the jump seat.

    Personally, I would have been grateful for the extra leg room:)


    It's All About Revenue (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 11:46:00 AM EST
    And the appearance of security.

    Some thoughts from Dave Mackett, President, Airline Pilots Security Alliance:
    From the

    There is simply no deployable technology that has a prayer of keeping a motivated, prepared terrorist out of the system every time -- even most times. TSA misses more than 90% of detectable weapons at passenger checkpoints in their own tests, and it is not their fault, because of the limitations of technology and the number of inspections they must conduct. This doesn't count several classes of completely undetectable weapons like composite knives and liquid explosives.

    What is TSA's fault is their abject failure to embrace more robust approaches than high visibility inspections, and their accommodations to the Air Transport Association's revenue interests at the expense of true security, while largely ignoring the recommendations of the front-line airline crews and air marshals who have no direct revenue agenda and are much more familiar with airline operations than are the bureaucrats (remember government ignoring the front-line FBI agents who tried to warn them about 9/11?).

    Last time we took (none / 0) (#9)
    by camellia on Fri Jun 20, 2008 at 03:13:59 PM EST
    a plane, my poor husband was almost stripsearched.  He has two hip replacements, and usually sets off the machine, but generally they just wand him and let him go -- he's a benign-looking elderly gent; this time they took him off to a room nearby, made him remove his shirt and his money-belt, patted him down in the most intrusive way possible, then returned his money belt to him, open and with important stuff missing.   Meanwhile, had he been alone, his wallet, keys, passport, shoes, etc. would have been sitting out in a public area without anyone watching it.   Truly, it is beginning to feel like a police state.  And some of the stories from incoming foreign travellers are horrifying.

    Coming home, we waltzed through the security gates with water bottles in hand, beeps from hip replacements were met with big smiles and pleasant waves, and the security officer took the time to show us where to find the best restaurant for lunch in the airport.