Informal survey shows lax ID checks for air travelers

An informal survey of more than 80 domestic airline travelers found that Transportation Security Administration officials often do not enforce the agency's own rule that travelers must present government-issued identification at airports.

The TSA rule mandates that airline travelers present at least one form of such ID at security checkpoints.

Many of the travelers responding to the survey had forgotten their identification or it was stolen, or their driver's licenses had expired. Many of those who recounted their experiences at the airports said TSA screeners subjected them to extra security checks but allowed them to board the aircraft.

Other travelers were allowed to board planes after showing several forms of non-government identification, such as credit cards or school ID cards.

The survey was undertaken by a group of three activists calling themselves "The Identity Project." They are concerned about the inefficient and overly intrusive security policies implemented by the government. John Gilmore, a founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a member.

Gilmore previously had mounted a legal challenge to TSA's identification rule. He charged that the requirement to present government-issued identification violates his First Amendment right to meet and associate with others. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January ruled against Gilmore. Gilmore is appealing the decision.

The survey was completed by people who responded to the group's request for information about their experiences at airports when they had traveled without any forms of identification deemed valid by TSA.

"This was the first time someone has 'reverse-engineered' the process to find out what it takes to get on an airline without identification," said Bill Scannell, an activist who helped organize the survey and who is also Gilmore's publicist.

The group decided to conduct the survey after the circuit court decision, Scannell said. The judges told Gilmore that he could have subjected himself to a secondary screening process rather than present any identification when taking a flight.

But TSA has not made that choice clear to travelers, Scannell said. "This is a nation of laws. People should just be able to say: 'Give me the secondary,'" he said. "People shouldn't have to say: The dog ate my homework."

An agency spokeswoman confirmed that passengers can pass through its security systems without valid ID if they go through a secondary screening procedure.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.