TSA at Philadelphia International Airport using credential authentication technology to improve checkpoint screening capabilities

Local Press Release
Wednesday, July 29, 2020
A TSA officer at Philadelphia International Airport operates a credential authentication technology unit at one of the checkpoints. (TSA photo)

PHILADELPHIA —  The Transportation Security Administration officers at Philadelphia International Airport are using new technology that validates a traveler’s identification and confirms their flight information in near real time.

 TSA has 16 credential authentication technology (CAT) units in use at the airport.  

“The new credential authentication technology units that we are using enhance our detection capabilities for identifying altered or fraudulent IDs such as driver’s licenses and passports at checkpoints,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s Federal Security Director for Philadelphia International Airport. “The system also is able to confirm the passenger’s flight status in near real time through a secured connection. Overall it increases efficiency at the checkpoint.”

PHL CAT Picture
The CAT unit on the left reads a driver’s license that was inserted into the unit and indicates that this license has expired and is no longer valid for passage through the checkpoint and the monitor shows a pink and red indicator. The screen on the right indicates that the passport was determined to be valid and the monitor shows a green indicator. (TSA photos)

When a traveler hands the TSA officer their ID, the officer places it in the CAT unit, which scans the ID and informs the TSA officer whether the ID is valid. In most cases, travelers who approach the TSA travel document checking podium do not have to show their boarding pass because the CAT unit verifies that the traveler is prescreened to travel out of the airport for a flight that day; however, one may be requested for travelers under the age of 18 and/or those with ID issues. Even with TSA’s use of CAT, travelers still need to check-in with their airline in advance and bring their boarding pass to their gate agent to show the airline representative before boarding their flight.

 This technology will enhance detection capabilities for identifying fraudulent documents at the security checkpoint.

CAT units authenticate several thousand types of IDs including passports, military common access cards, retired military ID cards, Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler ID cards, uniformed services ID cards, permanent resident cards, U.S. visas and driver’s licenses and photo IDs issued by state motor vehicle departments.

A CAT unit consists of the passport reader, an ID card reader, a Federal personal identity verification ID card reader, a monitor, a stand and a UV light.

In addition, it is critical that travelers have their REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or other acceptable form of identification by the Oct. 1, 2021, deadline. The CAT units will not accept a driver’s license after Oct. 1, 2021, if it is not REAL ID-compliant.

Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act enacted the 9/11 Commission's recommendation that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.” The Act and implementing regulations establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like TSA, from accepting driver’s licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards for official purposes, such as getting through the airport security checkpoint to board a plane.