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Secure Flight Q&A II

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
plane

This Saturday, August 15, the second phase of Secure Flight will roll out. I blogged about it last month and explained that Secure flight will be phased in over the next few months and that you may or may not be asked for your birth date and gender.

Since then, many questions have come up. I provided the questions to the Secure Flight Office and they were kind enough to provide some answers. I’d like to publically give the Secure Flight Office kudos for being so openly willing to provide answers for the blog. They understand transparency and the benefits involved in keeping everybody informed and knowledgeable about a program.

Miscellaneous Secure Flight Questions & Answers

Q: Any word on the apparent Secure-Flight requirement that anyone who books their ticket within 72-hours of travel or changes their itinerary within 72 hours of travel (say due to a flight cancellation, weather delay, reroute, etc.) will be subject to HaraSSSSment via SSSSelectee SSSScreening?

A: Facilitating passenger air travel is a key goal of the Secure Flight program . To achieve that goal, Secure Flight was designed to be able to perform real-time watch list matching for passengers who are standing by or who have last minute flight changes.

Q: What if I don't feel like providing my birth date or I just make one up??

A: TSA requires you to provide your full name, date of birth, and gender for the purpose of watch list screening, under the authority of 49 U.S.C. section 114 , the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and 49 C.F.R parts 1540 and 1560 . You may also provide your Redress Number , if available. Failure to provide your full name, date of birth, and gender may result in denial of transport or denial of authority to enter the boarding area.

Q: This particular "layer" isn't terribly effective. If this "layer" of security can be circumvented by anyone with a printer and a word processor, this doesn't seem to be a terribly useful "layer" ... especially looking at the amount of money being expended on this particular "layer". It might be that this money could be more effectively spent on other "layers".

A: TSA uses layers of security to ensure the security of the traveling public and the Nation's transportation system. Secure Flight’s watchlist name matching constitutes only one security layer of the many in place to protect aviation. Others include intelligence gathering and analysis, airport checkpoints, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals , federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public.

Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a much stronger, formidable system. A terrorist who has to overcome multiple security layers in order to carry out an attack is more likely to be pre-empted, deterred, or to fail during the attempt.

Q: What effect will the requirement to ask about sex ... What effect will the requirement to ask about sex have on transgendered persons? I can see many incredibly humiliating scenarios coming forward where someone's biological sex (appearing on their gov't issued ID) seems not to match their visible gender markers or how they'd like to be identified.

A: Under Secure Flight, passengers will be required to provide their name, gender, and date of birth when making a reservation to fly. The gender provided when making the reservation should match the gender indicated on the passenger’s government-issued identification.
Once the passenger has made the reservation, their information will be sent to Secure Flight to perform watch list matching. If the passenger is cleared, there will be no further need to provide gender information from that point forward for purposes of the Secure Flight program. While the passenger may be required to provide an ID at the security checkpoint, this process is not a part of the Secure Flight program. (See last paragraph)

In the event that the individual is deemed a potential match to the watch list, that individual will need to go through the resolution process which occurs at the airport. At the ticket counter (or in some cases at an airport kiosk), name, date of birth, and gender information are taken directly from the passenger’s government-issued ID and submitted to Secure Flight.

Please note that Secure Flight will not impact the process at the security checkpoint in any way. The security checkpoint at airports serves to ensure 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.

Q: I remember a couple of years ago, it was revealed that the airlines gave personal information about 12 million passengers to the government without their permission or knowledge. How can anyone trust TSA after that?

A: TSA developed the Secure Flight program in accordance with the widely-accepted Fair Information Practice Principles and privacy laws. The most fundamental principle is notice. Consumers should be given notice of an entity's information practices before any personal information is collected from them. TSA has issued a Final Rule , Privacy Impact Assessment , and System of Records Notice . These public notices discuss the purposes, uses, and protections for passenger data, and outline which data elements are to be collected and from whom. The public notices also require that the airlines make a privacy notice available on public Web sites and self-serve kiosks before collecting any personally identifiable information from passengers.

Q: What safeguards are there to prevent the passenger database that will be generated by SecureFlight from being used by other government agencies -- say, police departments for warrant service, or any other agency that may have interest in an individual's travel plans?

A: TSA is authorized to share information with other law enforcement agencies and organizations in certain situations. Entities with whom this information is shared are identified in the Secure Flight System of Records Notice (SORN) which includes the categories of users and the purposes of such uses. According to the Secure Flight Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), organizations with which TSA shares information must agree to maintain reasonable physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards to appropriately protect the shared information. If you would like more information, the Secure Flight PIA provides for both the purpose of collecting information and the authorized uses for the information collected.

Q: Can I use an existing government ID that doesn’t meet current information requirements?

A: With regard to acceptable forms of ID, TSA requires that a passenger present an ID that includes their full name, gender, date of birth, and a picture. The ID provides a means by which an airline representative can verify the identity of a passenger if need be. In order to facilitate this verification process, the aforementioned items must be included on the ID.

Q: What if I just got out of prison and don’t have any ID (stolen, etc), but I have, my birth certificate, and SS card, etc?

A: TSA requires that passengers provide a government-issued photo ID if they are a potential match to the watch list. To the avoid unnecessary delays that may occur at the airport if a passenger does not have a government-issued ID that includes a photo, TSA recommends taking the necessary steps to obtain one.

Questions about Names on Boarding Passes Matching Names on ID

Q: So, would the use on the ticket of a shortened form of the first name (eg, Jim, Tom, Ed) with no middle name be a problem for the next few months?

A: TSA has built some flexibility into the processes regarding passenger name accuracy. Because Secure Flight data requirement timelines are related to booking dates, not travel dates, if you have booked a flight that uses a shorter name such as Jim, Tom or Ed, for the near future, you should not notice any changes. Other common minor 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, also should not cause a problem for the passenger. Over time, passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their ID and the travel information they use for booking flights.

Q: Your blog says that in the near future your name on a boarding pass will have to match the name on your ID such as passports etc. As of now many airlines don't have a provision to enter a middle name when purchasing tickets online. So, how far away is the "near future" and what kind of coordination will be in place to make sure the airlines are on board with this?” I hope that there will not be any problems for the people who do not have their middle names on the tickets.

A: Secure Flight will be phased-in and each airline will be incorporating the necessary changes into their systems over the coming months. Passengers shouldn't be concerned if particular airlines don't ask them to provide the additional information right away; it should not impact their travel. Each airline will request this information as their capability to capture it is integrated into their individual systems.

Q: I purchased tickets last week for a trip from ORD to CUN, due to credit card issues (fraud alert went up on my card when trying to purchase the tickets) my session timed out, while on the phone w/ my credit card company I put all information back in but ended up putting one of the names in last/first. I have called the airline and they assure me it won't be an issue but of course I'm less worried about the airline and more worried about whether TSA will allow it to go through. Can you please give me any insight on what we can expect and if there is anything we can do about it now? I asked about paying to reissue the ticket correctly but the airline says it's not necessary. Thank you.

A: If you entered your name incorrectly when making the reservation, you should follow the airline’s guidance regarding correcting the mistake.

Q: My wife does not use a last name. So her name is only her first name. When she applied for her US visa, they stamped her name as "FNU Fname" on her visa. FNU is for First name Unknown and they used her first name to be her last (something about the visa office /requiring/ last name to be not empty in their database). So, my question is, how do we book her tickets going forward?? "FNY Fname" as that's the name on her visa or just Fname, the way it appears on the front page of her passport? Thanks.

A: In designing the Secure Flight process, TSA anticipated these types of issues and provided airlines with specific instructions on the submission of passenger names for individuals whose government issued ID contains only a single name. These instructions permit the airlines to accept and submit such names to Secure Flight for appropriate processing. The passenger needs only to ensure that the airline with which he/she makes a reservation to fly is aware that he has only one name.

Please note that Secure Flight does NOT require that the information on the boarding pass itself match the ID. Whether or not the information on the boarding pass matches the reservation information depends on the capabilities of each individual airline. Some airlines’ boarding passes do not currently have the ability to support names exactly as they appear on the ID.

Q: I am concerned because I've already purchased my airline tickets back in Feb. for trips in Oct. and Jan. I used my short name, which is a part of my full name, and my boarding pass cannot be changed. Will Security allow me to board my flight?

A: Secure Flight requirement timelines are related to booking dates, not travel dates. For reservations that are made prior to the dates that Secure Flight has established for data collection requirements, aircraft operators are not required to collect the required Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD).

Secure Flight requires that domestic aircraft operators request and collect full name as of May 15, 2009, and date of birth and gender as of August 15, 2009 for their domestic flights. For international flights, full name, date of birth, and gender must be requested and collected as of October 31, 2009. These data elements are collectively referred to as SFPD.

Q: Name change due to marriage –Reservation is changed/unchanged name from ID.

A: Under the Secure Flight program, TSA requires aircraft operators to collect a passenger's full name, date of birth, and gender. Full name is defined as the name as it appears on the identification document that the passenger plans to use when traveling. This definition applies equally to a newly married woman. If she plans to travel prior to legally changing her name on her government issued identity document she uses when traveling, she should make her reservation using the name as it appears on that document.

_________________________________________________________________

I would like to thank the Secure Flight Office for taking the time to provide answers to your questions. They have provided answers and information in the past for the following blog posts:

Secure Flight Update 7/15/09
Secure Flight Q&A 6/2/09
What’s In a Name 5/15/09

Thanks,

Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Bubbaloop on

Bob,

You did not address my concern regarding long names that don´t fit on forms. I understand abbreviations will be OK for now, but I would like to know what will be done when full names are required. Many Latin persons have long names. Just an example (the name of a former heir to the Portuguese throne):

Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bagança e Bourton

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I would like to thank the Secure Flight Office for taking the time to provide answers to your questions."

This must be under some new definition of "answer" that does not bother with addressing the actual question asked.

I note that TSA continues to be completely unable to explain how identity is related to security, and why any of this makes anyone safer. Pathetic.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob (or the Secure-Flight office),

While I appreciate you addressing my question about last-minute changes requiring SSSSelectee SSSScreening, I am disturbed that yet again, you failed to actually answer the question.

Stating, "To achieve that goal, Secure Flight was designed to be able to perform real-time watch list matching for passengers who are standing by or who have last minute flight changes," is not the same as saying "no, you will not get SSSSelected automatically as a result of last-minute changes/tickets." If that is true, why not just come out and say so? And if it is true, then why the SF requirement to submit the info 72 hours in advance? TSA's CYA never-give-a-definitive-answer mentality is unacceptable.

Similarly, your answer about no-ID passengers is a non-answer. Stating the ID requirement and suggesting people get IDs does not answer the question about what will happen to no-ID pax. The phrase threatening "unnecessary delays" used in the "answer" does not really answer it either.

You really need to work on your answer-writing skills, or have someone outside TSA (and not a lawyer representing DHS/TSA) review your answers before posting them. The only questions you really answered were the 1st, 2nd, and 5th in the "Matching Names" section. Your other answers would have gotten me a D from my high school English or history teachers, an F from my college professors, and laughter and humiliation from academic colleagues and peer reviewers in and beyond grad-school.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

If Secure-Flight compliance is based on booking date, how are TSOs at the checkpoint supposed to know when you booked your ticket? Automated checkin kiosks can't verify that name, DOB, and gender match the ID (unless you plan on requiring machine-readable IDs and requiring that they be scanned, which would be a disaster), so as always, ID verification will fall to the papers-please TDC position now manned by TSOs/BDOs/SPOTters. (the guy with the silly loupe and UV lamp.)

How will they know if the ticket was booked after 8/15 (or after a particular airline started phasing in SF) or before, so that they know if they are supposed to harass, detain, and delay a passenger with a minor or moderate name mismatch?

And even the TDC will be able to verify only name against the ticket, unless you plan to require airlines to print gender and DOB on the BP. Or plan to require airlines to encode the information into their barcodes. Either of which would create huge privacy and ID-theft risks by putting more PII on the BP. And would almost certainly require a new privacy-impact-assessment from TSA.

And how do you plan to verify DOB and prevent us from using bogus DOBs in bookings? You might as well answer the question, because in a few weeks we'll likely have online reports of people using fake DOBs and having no problems whatsoever with flying. Unless you are keeping a global database of valid name and DOB pairs (which again would require PA statements not made by TSA), you have no way to verify this info.

That leads to part of the whole joke about SF and why it is obviously about creating travel dossiers and not just no-fly matching. In reality, the only people who should need to provide DOB and gender are those who would otherwise match the NFL or SSSS lists. It is irrelevant to no-fly matching that the rest of us provide this info. Providing a single field for a redress number and issuing redress numbers(without hassle or delay) to no-fly/SSSS false-positives would have solved the list mismatch problem. This solution also would be much cheaper for the airlines and travel agents (redress # could probably be crammed into an existing PNR comment field without rebuilding the entire system) But by requiring the info from everybody, you put the infrastructure in place to create massive databases of personal information and travel history.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Re: "Each one of these layers alone is capable of stopping a terrorist attack. In combination their security value is multiplied, creating a much stronger, formidable system. A terrorist who has to overcome multiple security layers in order to carry out an attack is more likely to be pre-empted, deterred, or to fail during the attempt."

Your ID checkers rely completely on SecureFlight to check the names against the watch list, so the layers are not complementary or "multiplicative"--a failure in one of these two layers breaks both. For example, if a terrorist collaborator can buy a ticket and fly, then all the terrorist needs to do is either photoshop a boarding pass that matches his valid ID (bypass secure flight) or borrow an ID that matches their face (bypass TDC like Bonnie Sweeten).

Your onion-like layer of security model is more like a rube goldberg farce.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

"I would like to thank the Secure Flight Office for taking the time to provide answers to your questions."

This must be under some new definition of "answer" that does not bother with addressing the actual question asked.

I note that TSA continues to be completely unable to explain how identity is related to security, and why any of this makes anyone safer. Pathetic."


Actually this has been address many times. Either you haven't read it, or do not accept the answer. Either is fine and ok. But that does not mean TSA hasn't answer - maybe you don't like the answer, and if you don't does that mean you question hasn't been answered?

I have not seen post anywhere where TSA has said you have to accept and like the answer, or even agree with the answers conclusions (you might think this doesn't make air travel more safe). But that doesn't mean you haven't been answered.

Where does it say everyone has to agree with an "answer" before that answer is accepted as even being given? To face the facts, TSA might be entirely wrong - but this question has still been answered.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jim Huggins said...

"Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?"



Because names are so different from culture to culture, nation to nation, religion to religion, and people are so different regardless.

I see the "should's" as a flexibility built into the system for those with different naming practices.

You tell me, what is acceptable for a shortened name? The other day I had a passenger with the first name of "Teresa" on their state id, but the name "Kat" on their boarding pass. They said Kat was a common short hand name for Teresa. Is it, I really don't know? Whats common for me might not be common for you, and so forth.

How can TSA make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names? You tell me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

edited...


"How will they know if the ticket was booked after 8/15 (or after a particular airline started phasing in SF) or before, so that they know if they are supposed to harass, detain, and delay a passenger with a minor or moderate name mismatch?"

The answer to your question is actually quiet easy. When airlines started to charge for almost all check-bags, the same thing happened. Didn't have to pay if you bought your ticket before a certain day.

It's really not that hard to firgure out.

As to knowing which passenger to harass, why all of them, of course. ;)

Submitted by NoClu on

You: “Once the passenger has made the reservation, their information will be sent to Secure Flight to perform watch list matching. If the passenger is cleared, there will be no further need to provide gender information from that point forward for purposes of the Secure Flight program. While the passenger may be required to provide an ID at the security checkpoint, this process is not a part of the Secure Flight program.”

Me: Really? The passenger MAY be required to provide and ID… are things changing and you’ve realized how useless the process is, or are you splitting hairs (because ID check at the checkpoint isn’t part of the Secure Flight program).

You: “A: TSA requires that passengers provide a government-issued photo ID if they are a potential match to the watch list.”

Me: So, Gov ID required IF you are a potential match. Does this mean that Gov ID is not required if you are NOT a potential match?

You: “A: With regard to acceptable forms of ID, TSA requires that a passenger present an ID that includes their full name, gender, date of birth, and a picture. The ID provides a means by which an airline representative can verify the identity of a passenger if need be.”

Me: So, is ID is required to help the airline representatives do their job. Sounds like revenue protection more than anything else.

I have to agree with Anon @ 2:57 and Jim Huggins @ 3:15, you have to work on how you try to answer questions, if you really mean to clarify and enlighten the traveling public. Otherwise, most of what you have written here will only help to muddy the water further.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jim Huggins said...
Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?

It is "should" because nothing but death is guaranteed. You try making over 45,000 employees follow every rule every day. At some point someone will make a mistake, because that is just what humans do. Can you make a guarantee that for the rest of your like you, your family, co-workers, etc. are not going to make a mistake along the way?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Jim Huggins said...
Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?

Jim, Should is used because that is what "should" happen. However, we are all human beings and as such we all make mistakes at some time in our lives. Nobody is perfect 100% of the time, so TSA cannot guarantee that all of their 45,000+ employees will not make a mistake. The only guarantee humans can count on is that we will all die at some point.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Pedro de Alcântara Francisco Antônio João Carlos Xavier de Paula Miguel Rafael Joaquim José Gonzaga Pascoal Cipriano Serafim de Bagança e Bourton


I thought the answer was fairl straightforward. How does the name appear on your ID? That's the name you need to use.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Keep in mind that the TSA "privacy" policy refers only to the copy of the reservation data sent to the TSA. the *airline* is free, under the Secure flight regulaitons, to keep its copy foreverand do anything it likes with it -- including "share" it with the TSA oir other govt. agencies in the future.

There's a restriction on what the airline can do with info it receives from the TSA, but no restriction on what it can do with info obtained form travelers or third parites, even if the traveler only provides the info to the TSA under TSA duress.

The airline has to have a "privacy policy", but there's no requirement for what's in that policy (not that airline's follow their exisitng privacy policies anyway). it satisfies the TSA regs for an airline to have a policy that says, "We'll keep your data as long as we feel like, and do whatever we feel like with it, without telling you or asking your permisison."

So the TSA may not keep its copy, but it can always get access to the data from the airline or reservation system.

Some "privacy".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob:

Why, when asked a question regarding differences in exact names, etc., you say that it "should" not be a problem? What is preventing you from saying that it "will" not be a problem?

Submitted by Bob on
Q: Is there any reason why TSA won't come out and make a bold promise that says "minor differences in names will not affect travel"?

A: It would be unwise and awfully bold for anybody to state that a new program involving millions of travelers and thousands of airline employees daily would not cause any problems. I don’t know of anybody who would make that claim and put their money on it.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team
Submitted by Ayn R Key on
Q: Is there any relationship between the questions and the answer?

A: No.
Submitted by Andy on

You guys didn't answer #1. The point of #1 was to ask if those who book tickets at the last minute (>72 hours in advance) would be subjected to SSSS. Please clarify. Thanks.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Please note that Secure Flight will not impact the process at the security checkpoint in any way. The security checkpoint at airports serves to ensure 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.

Aw man here I went and got all excited that the TSA was FINALLY going to follow the law and stop the illegal ID verification as a criterion for granting access to the sterile area.

Please note the ONLY time you are required by law to show your ID is to the COVERED AIRCRAFT OPERATOR not the TSA.

Title 49 § 1540.107 Submission to screening and inspection.

(c) An individual may not enter a sterile area or board an aircraft if the individual does not present a verifying identity document as defined in §1560.3 of this chapter, when requested for purposes of watch list matching under §1560.105(c), unless otherwise authorized by TSA on a case-by-case basis.

Title 49 § 1560.105 Denial of transport or sterile area access; Designation for enhanced screening.

(a) Applicability . (1) This section applies to each covered aircraft operator ...

(c) Request for identification —(1) In general . If TSA has not informed the covered aircraft operator of the results of watch list matching for an individual by the time the individual attempts to check in, or informs the covered aircraft operator that an individual has been placed in inhibited status, the aircraft operator must request from the individual a verifying identity document pursuant to procedures in its security program., as provided in 49 CFR part 1544, subpart B or 49 CFR part 1546, subpart B. The individual must present a verifying identity document to the covered aircraft operator at the airport.
Submitted by Trollkiller on
A: TSA requires that passengers provide a government-issued photo ID if they are a potential match to the watch list. To the avoid unnecessary delays that may occur at the airport if a passenger does not have a government-issued ID that includes a photo, TSA recommends taking the necessary steps to obtain one.

So which is it? Above you say the checkpoint will not change and you will still push forward with the illegal forced ID verification at the checkpoint and here you say that you only need ID "if they are a potential match to the watch list."

Cool my word verification is "retro", even the blog software knows we have been down this road before.
Submitted by KBCraig on

I see you talking, but all I hear is Charlie Brown's teacher.

"Wahnnk wnnk wahnnnk wank-wahn-wah."

It takes a special kind of expertise to write so many words and saying nothing at all. It must be a government thing: my fed.gov employer gives the same kind of "answers" to employee feedback on our intranet.

Submitted by Sandra on

Jim Huggins wrote, in part

"...to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?"

Anonymous then wrote a long response:

"Because names are so different from culture to culture, nation to nation, religion to religion, and people are so different regardless.

I see the "should's" as a flexibility built into the system for those with different naming practices.

You tell me, what is acceptable for a shortened name? The other day I had a passenger with the first name of "Teresa" on their state id, but the name "Kat" on their boarding pass. They said Kat was a common short hand name for Teresa. Is it, I really don't know? Whats common for me might not be common for you, and so forth.

How can TSA make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names? You tell me.

August 12, 2009 4:14 PM"

Did you note notice Jim's phrase "trying to follow the ever-changing rules"?

That means that the passenger would have booked his/her ticket in the same name used on his "government issued photo ID."

Your answer, Anonymous, had nothing to do with a passenger trying to play by the rules.

Submitted by Bubbaloop on

Dear Anonymous TSO who loves to refute all questions,

Please sign a name, any name, so we can more easily exchange ideas with you.

As for your answer "I thought the answer was fairl (sic) straightforward. How does the name appear on your ID? That's the name you need to use."

What I am saying is that long names like that don´t fit on the forms. My name (which, although long, is significantly shorter than that one) does not fit on online forms, and, according to at least one airline, will never fit on a boarding pass, regardless of secure flight rules.

I want to know if I am doomed to perpetual super-screening by the likes of your people because I happen to have a long name.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Actually this has been address many times. Either you haven't read it, or do not accept the answer."

Where? Where has TSA given an explanation of why it thinks identity has anything to do with security, or why a screened passenger without an ID is so much more dangerous than a screened passenger with an ID? TSA has been riding this particular hobby horse for years now but has never, ever, ever given an explanation -- which says quite a lot, given how obsessed they are with checking IDs.

As always, when TSA refuses to answer a simple question, people are justifiably suspicious.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What steps has the TSA taken to ensure that the extra PII citizens are being required to turn over to private airlines for internal travel is a) protected and b) not used for other non security purposes?

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
Jim Huggins said...

"Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?"



Because names are so different from culture to culture, nation to nation, religion to religion, and people are so different regardless.

I see the "should's" as a flexibility built into the system for those with different naming practices.

You tell me, what is acceptable for a shortened name? The other day I had a passenger with the first name of "Teresa" on their state id, but the name "Kat" on their boarding pass. They said Kat was a common short hand name for Teresa. Is it, I really don't know? Whats common for me might not be common for you, and so forth.

How can TSA make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names? You tell me.

August 12, 2009 4:14 PM

.........................
I think you make some good points and the answer to your questions is a simple one.

Knowing someones name does not improve security in any way, shape or form.

DHS/TSA saying it does is just not true.

I'll say it again, Identity does not improve security!

What increases safety is screening all people for WEI, all cargo and checked baggage for prohibited items.

TSA only screens passengers! Not all cargo and not all people who enter the secure areas of airports.

TSA does not provide real security!

Submitted by RB on

Knowing someones name does not improve security in any way, shape or form.

DHS/TSA saying it does is just not true.

I'll say it again, Identity does not improve security!

Submitted by Sandra on

Bob, all your links aside, if a passenger does not have any object on his/her person that is verboten, i.e., WEI, please tell us how verifying ID makes traveling safer?

That's what so many want to know and that is the question the TSA is NOT answering.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, none of those links answer the question "Why is ID important?", except if you're willing to accept "it's important because we say it is" as an acceptable answer. Now, that's a line that people generally use with their kids. I realize that the government likes to see themselves as our mommy and daddy, but it's fairly insulting to my intelligence to see such answers.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

To my oft-repeated question about why rule-abiding passengers "should" have no problems instead of "will" have no problems, Bob replies:

It would be unwise and awfully bold for anybody to state that a new program involving millions of travelers and thousands of airline employees daily would not cause any problems. I don’t know of anybody who would make that claim and put their money on it.


Bob ... can you understand why this is frustrating? Passengers are asked to become an "active partner in [their] security experience by knowing the rules". If a passenger doesn't follow the rules, the consequences are entirely their fault. But when a TSO doesn't follow the rules, the answer seems to be "well, give us a break, you can't possibly expect us to be perfect."

If you're going to demand that passengers follow the rules all the time, and gleefully announce every week how many times passengers don't follow the rules on the TSA homepage (a number less than .001% of passengers, by the way), it hardly seems unreasonable to expect the same high standard of performance from those doing the screening.

Submitted by RB on

Sandra said...
Bob, all your links aside, if a passenger does not have any object on his/her person that is verboten, i.e., WEI, please tell us how verifying ID makes traveling safer?

That's what so many want to know and that is the question the TSA is NOT answering.

August 13, 2009 9:16 AM

...........................
Bob's method of answering your question will go something like this:

Puts on Ruby Red Slippers and clicks heels three times while repeating I wish it were true, I wish it were true......

Worked for Dorothy.

Submitted by Phil on

Bob, it seems that each of the pages to which you linked dances around the issue of identification of passengers, but never answers the question. Could you please quote the relevant portion instead of just pointing us to the entire discussion?

Can you explain how the ID check does anything besides 1) protect airline revenue (preventing customers from transferring tickets, thus allowing airlines to sell a seat a second time if the purchaser is unable to use his ticket) and 2) restricting people's freedom of movement using blacklists?

--
Phil
Add your own questions at TSAFAQ.net

Submitted by Anonymous on

If your neighbor bought an orange car, and you asked, "Neighbor, why did you buy an orange car?", and your neighbor said "Orange is a mixture of red and yellow," would you consider your neighbor to have answered your question?

Of course not. Your neighbor might have said some words right after you asked your question, but they're not an answer in any meaningful sense of the word.

So too with TSA. Nothing you've posted has ever addressed the fundamental "why" behind TSA's obsession with identity. To claim otherwise is to be deliberately obtuse.

Throw this on the pile with the war on liquids and the shoe carnival as security theatre that does nothing to make anyone safer.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

@Anonymous: "It is "should" because nothing but death is guaranteed. You try making over 45,000 employees follow every rule every day. At some point someone will make a mistake, because that is just what humans do. Can you make a guarantee that for the rest of your like you, your family, co-workers, etc. are not going to make a mistake along the way?"

Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, etc all have as many if not more employees of lower quality yet I can walk into any of those and get the same burger/taco/chicken/etc at any of those places - even if they're not owned by the same people.

What does that say about TSA if they can't control 45,000 people and get them to follow their own rules? I don't want to hear that it's hard - it can be done. TSA isn't doing it.

Earl

Submitted by Rational Thinki... on

Bob said...

For the Anon who says we've never discussed why ID is important for security, I suggest checking out these links:

Why ID is Important for Security

ID Heads Up

ID Requirements

ID Update

ID Q&A

ID Post From Kip Hawley

Bloger Bob
TSA Blog Team

August 13, 2009 9:05 AM
-----------------------------

Best I can tell from all of the above cited posts, the TSA considers ID verification important in order to match the ID to boarding passes. This is presumed upon the fact that the boarding pass is genuine and the person holding the boarding pass has been vetted against the watch list.

There are several problems here which the TSA has failed to specifically address at this point, which should make any thinking person question how valuable this process is in its current form.

Problem 1: Boarding passes printed at home

A) How is the document checker able to tell if the boarding pass printed at home contains information which correctly matches the data which was entered when the flight was booked.

B) The document checker is apparently only checking the validity of the travel document presented, and is unable to check whether or not the name and other identifying information listed on the travel document corresponds to anyone listed in the terrorist watchlist because as noted by Bob, the match is presumed to have been preformed prior to the ticket being issued.

Solution:
Verification of the boarding pass should be preformed at the travel document checker's position. This could be preformed via a secure credential on a boarding pass. The TSA has made some proposals to include this step, which is good.

To not preform this step leaves the whole process in question.

Problem 2: Data entered on terrorist watchlist

How complete is the data entered on the terrorist watchlist?

Problem 3: Terrorists not listed on the watchlist.

This is a pretty major incongruity. As posted earlier, known terrorists are not presented on the watch list. How does the TSA reconcile this verification process if the data set being used to verify excludes the actual people whom the TSA is trying to deny flight privledges?

Problem 4: This catches "amateur" or non-state sponsored terrorists.

While many of the 911 hijackers did in fact have valid ID, any highly motivated, highly trained, and well funded terrorist will a) have valid ID and not be on a watch list b) be able to procure an authentic ID or undetectable facsimile through coercion.

This may dissuade some potential terrorists, but if we are looking to defend against another 911 scenario this does little to solve the problem.

Problem 5: The ID verification process can be overcome by finding a similar looking ID holder.

Any teenager who has borrowed a sibling's ID, or by a terrorist obtaining the ID of a similiar looking person.

Solution: Check biometric data. The problem is, do we have biometric data of the people listed on the terrorist watchlist. Will passengers be willing to submit to biometric data screening at the checkpoint? Will passengers be willing to deal with additional delay at the checkpoint?

Major incongruity:

If someone is on the watch list but passes the screening process, why are they a danger?

Not fully addressing this question again leads the thinking adult to question the entire process. Merely making hand waving by the TSA of layers of security does not address the actual question, nor does it make someone safer in any actuality.

Conclusion:

The TSA's response to such questions is typically, that ID is one of many layers of security. The problem is that highly motivated and well funded terrorists along with any thinking person can see the obvious holes in the current process. If the TSA wants to convince intelligent thinking people that this process is needed, then it needs to fully commit to the process and not go "part way". To do anything less is not very persuasive to any intelligent and educated person as to why this process is needed,

Submitted by RB on

Rational Thinking Adult said...

Conclusion:

The TSA's response to such questions is typically, that ID is one of many layers of security. The problem is that highly motivated and well funded terrorists along with any thinking person can see the obvious holes in the current process. If the TSA wants to convince intelligent thinking people that this process is needed, then it needs to fully commit to the process and not go "part way". To do anything less is not very persuasive to any intelligent and educated person as to why this process is needed,

August 13, 2009 12:02 PM

...................
If TSA screens people and prevents WEI from getting onto aircraft what benefit does knowing a persons identity provide?

I say no benefit is gained.

Submitted by TSORon on

Rational Thinking Adult said...

“Conclusion:

The TSA's response to such questions is typically, that ID is one of many layers of security. The problem is that highly motivated and well funded terrorists along with any thinking person can see the obvious holes in the current process. If the TSA wants to convince intelligent thinking people that this process is needed, then it needs to fully commit to the process and not go "part way". To do anything less is not very persuasive to any intelligent and educated person as to why this process is needed,”

Some of the layers of the security process provided by the TSA you will be able to see and acknowledge, some you will not. Some of the layers are specifically designed to be hidden from the public, and some are not. Some of the layers of the security process you may have a need to know about, some you don’t. One of those layers of security is keeping certain layers unknown to the public, and hopefully the terrorists as well. Known security measures can be planned for, unknown one’s cannot. Known security measures one might be able to circumvent, unknown one’s cannot be.

You may think that there are holes in the process, and there might be a few, but there is much that you cannot see which includes much of what you seem to write about. A rational thinking adult with a security background “should” be able to see that. Those with no background in security will have a much tougher time finding not only the holes but also those hidden things that plug them.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
TSORon said...

Some of the layers of the security process provided by the TSA you will be able to see and acknowledge, some you will not. Some of the layers are specifically designed to be hidden from the public, and some are not. Some of the layers of the security process you may have a need to know about, some you don’t. One of those layers of security is keeping certain layers unknown to the public, and hopefully the terrorists as well. Known security measures can be planned for, unknown one’s cannot. Known security measures one might be able to circumvent, unknown one’s cannot be.

You may think that there are holes in the process, and there might be a few, but there is much that you cannot see which includes much of what you seem to write about. A rational thinking adult with a security background “should” be able to see that. Those with no background in security will have a much tougher time finding not only the holes but also those hidden things that plug them.

Horse hockey!
Submitted by Anonymous on

Simple question. When did the Fourth Amendment get repealed?

Submitted by Anonymous on

On August 12, 2009 9:54 PM

Blogger Bob said:

Q: Is there any reason why TSA won't come out and make a bold promise that says "minor differences in names will not affect travel"?

A: It would be unwise and awfully bold for anybody to state that a new program involving millions of travelers and thousands of airline employees daily would not cause any problems. I don’t know of anybody who would make that claim and put their money on it.

Bob, the issue is not really that people want you to say "will not" instead of "should not". Any rational person well understands that with 45,000 people there will be the occasional slip-up. What is frustrating to so many people is that TSA will never to commit to a hard and fast rule for itself (or for that matter the flying public).

A statement that would be much more acceptable to us would be something along the lines of: "Minor differences in names are not an issue. If a TSA agent objects to a minor difference in names, he or she is in error. In this case, you should politely ask for a supervisor."

That would tell the public what to expect and would also give some clarity to what the rules really are. I undertand that this is contrary to TSA practice and that is is much simpler to hide behind "SSI" when anyone asks to see the actual rules; however, it may be time for TSA management to consider the need for some transparency. It would go a long way to damp down the hostility felt towards TSA.

T-the-B at flyertalk

Submitted by Marshall's SO on

Bob, I would suggest that it be mandatory for all employees of the TSA, "leadership" (including Janet) downward to the lowliest screener, to read comments by readers of the Washington Post, the New York Times, many websites, etc. about this newest form of harassment from the TSA. Doing so will at least get you a heads-up as to the resentment your screeners are going to face, in spite of your "suggestion" that we "be courteous" to your screeners so they will let us through.

Over the past two days I have read more than 350 comments on several sights and I can count on one hand the number that were favorable towards "Secure Flight."

Now, back to the "be courteous" comments. The fact that the TSA has the arrogance to say that we have to play nice in order to get through a checkpoint just shows how out of control this agency has become. A passenger's access to the "sterile area" (that's put in quotes because it's not sterile, no matter what you think) must not depend on whether one of your screeners likes the passenger's attitude or not.

Submitted by RB on

Blogger Bob has once again violated his oath to the Constitution by limited free speech, speech which in no way challenged the illegal posting guidelines on this government operated blog.

So I will again attempt to use my Constitutional Right as a citizen to question my government.

DHS/TSA has determined tht people cannot travel without permission from the government. A clear violation of the Constitution.

Then they say they are not capable of ensuring that their employees will comply with this illegal regulations.

TSA requires compliance by travelers.

TSA will not require compliance by employees.

Sounds wrong if you ask me.

I suggest readers should consider these facts. TSA cannot ensure compliance by its employees with TSA policy. Why?

TSA has secret, unknown to the public rules that we must somehow comply with. TSA will not take a stand saying that employees will comply with policy.

Discussion is underway for government to mangage healthcare for the citizens of this country. If we take performance of TSA as any kind of measure of how well government can do certain tasks then why would anyone condsider allowing government to take on such a responsibility?

TSA in its current form is such a complete failure that allowing government to do anything should be warning enough.

So do you want an agency is capable as TSA in charge of your healthcare decisions?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The birth date requirement is easily defeated. TSA didnt require airlines to print the date of birth on the boarding pass or to embed it in the barcode.

As a result, someone could get away without inputting their real birth date at the time of ticket purchase.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a result of the oversight of not requiring airlines to print birthday on the BP (or embedding it in the barcode), TSA has created a simple loophole that undermines the entire XXX millions of investment in Secure Flight.

Submitted by Al Ames on

Anonymous said: "As a result of the oversight of not requiring airlines to print birthday on the BP (or embedding it in the barcode), TSA has created a simple loophole that undermines the entire XXX millions of investment in Secure Flight."

You're also assuming that the purpose of Secure Flight is to secure air travel. Depending on the motive, it may not be an issue in calculating the return on investment.

Al

Submitted by Anonymous on

RB said...

"Anonymous said...
Jim Huggins said...

"Forgive me for beating a dead horse ... but why all the "should"s in this answer? Why the inability, or unwillingness, to make guarantees for the passenger who is just trying to follow the ever-changing rules?"



Because names are so different from culture to culture, nation to nation, religion to religion, and people are so different regardless.

I see the "should's" as a flexibility built into the system for those with different naming practices.

You tell me, what is acceptable for a shortened name? The other day I had a passenger with the first name of "Teresa" on their state id, but the name "Kat" on their boarding pass. They said Kat was a common short hand name for Teresa. Is it, I really don't know? Whats common for me might not be common for you, and so forth.

How can TSA make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names? You tell me.

August 12, 2009 4:14 PM

.........................
I think you make some good points and the answer to your questions is a simple one.

Knowing someones name does not improve security in any way, shape or form.

DHS/TSA saying it does is just not true.

I'll say it again, Identity does not improve security!

What increases safety is screening all people for WEI, all cargo and checked baggage for prohibited items.

TSA only screens passengers! Not all cargo and not all people who enter the secure areas of airports.

TSA does not provide real security!"

---------------------------

You didn't answer my question, RB.

I asked "How can TSA make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names?"

To said knowing someones name does not making flying any more secure.

Fine, but that does not answer what I asked.

So again, assuming that this policy WILL come into effect, even if you believe it provides for no better security, even if you don't like it, my question is "how do you make a guaranteed policy that encompasses everyones conceptions (misconceptions?) regarding names?"

Submitted by Anonymous on

I read the posts that you linked, Bob; to repeat what several other posters have already pointed out, none of the posts came anywhere close to answering the question of why "identity matters." What I did find was a lot of talk about "layers," and about one "layer" in particular, the "Behavior Detection Officer." I highly doubt that anyone from the TSA will actually go so far as to provide independent, peer-reviewed studies that back up the TSA's theory that it is possible to detect criminal intent by focusing on a subject's "microexpressions" (and I don't mean a quote from one of the researchers who have profited by selling the TSA on this system), but perhaps you could do one thing...

On this blog BDOs are regularly described as "highly trained." However, to my knowledge BDO training lasts all of seven days (four in a classroom, three on the job). I'm sure the vast majority of BDOs are decent people who work hard at their job-- I'll even concede that they may truly be able to filter out the seemingly contradictory subconscious impulses to racially profile on the one hand with the strict prohibitions on racial profiling on the other as they analyze our "microexpressions." That being said, it's an insult to those of us who have spent years developing career-related skills to suggest that a week can make anyone "highly trained" in anything. Please avoid such patently false descriptions in the future.

Also, please avoid posting links that do not actually answer the questions that you claim they do-- this is a waste of our time.

Submitted by Khurt Williams on

I did not see an answer to the question about names that are too long to enter into the airline system. I have 3 middle names listed on my passport. When I booked my tickets I saw no way to enter all those names. How will this affect my ability to fly? This is not a hypothetical questions.

Submitted by D Ramsey on

From what I have read on SF the airlines have been doing something similar to this for a long time. Now the only difference is that TSA will be doing it instead of multiple airlines doing the same thing. Nobody seemed to have an issue when the airlines were checking this information, but now that TSA is going to be doing the checking everybody is up in arms. Is it only because TSA is doing this? It seems to me that there are much bigger an issue to deal with than who is checking names against the watch list isn't there? I have yet to see anybody denied boarding because of a slight difference in the names on their boarding pass and their ID.

On a side note, I have a friend who is the security director for an airline who is currently running SF. He just informed me that they love it! That is runs very smoothly; they have entire flights of 125 to 140 passengers cleared within 5 minutes. If a passenger name comes back with an issue it is within 72 hours before the flight and they have time to correct it and they have never had a passenger denied or made a selectee for additional screening. He informed me that the entire process runs very smoothly and he is very impressed with it. I really hope this will help alleviate some of the anxiety people feel about this program.

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