By Sarah Lai Stirland
March 23, 2006An 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.
By Sarah Lai Stirland
March 23, 2006