TSA Security by Quinn Dombrowski, http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

Recently, I’ve noticed there are more and more travelers who militantly assert that air travel passengers don’t need to show TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents their IDs under Federal law, in order to fly on a commercial airplane. Many of the claimants characterize TSA as “Gestapo like,” due to their ID requirements being akin to stating “Papers please!”

Whether or not TSA has the authority, under the US Constitution and Federal law, to require air travelers present their ID’s to TSA agents at airport security checkpoints, as a prerequisite to be able to fly, it’s my belief, TSA’s ID regulations are merely more of TSA’s security theater, providing a real “show,” but precious little security for the air traveling public.

Even if TSA doesn’t have the legal authority to require travelers show TSA agents their IDs, there is an ID requirement at the airport which passengers must follow. You’ve got to show your ID to the airline on which you’re flying, if requested. It’s in the airlines’ contract of carriage.

For example, in the US Airways Contract of Carriage, it states, “US Airways may refuse to transport, or remove from any flight, any passenger for the following reasons: … 4. Refusal by a passenger to produce positive identification upon request.”

If you’re flying internationally, the airlines may refuse to transport you for, “Failure of a passenger traveling across any international boundary to possess all valid documents (passports, visas, certificates, etc.) required by the laws of the countries from, over, or into which the passenger will fly.” So, if they ask, you must show the airlines your travel documents, when flying internationally.

When you check in at the ticket counter, and then at the gate to board, you’ve got to show your ID to the ticket or gate agent, if asked. There’s actually some security value in this requirement. Along with scanning the boarding pass at the gate, it helps the airlines to ensure checked-in luggage won’t fly, if the passenger doesn’t fly.

So, why do I think the TSA ID check is just more of its security theater?

TSA states about their ID Requirements for Airport Checkpoints that,

“Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.”

Then, immediately in the next paragraph TSA states,

“We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases.”

So, if you give TSA a “song and a dance” that you lost your IDs, you can give them some other identification information, or maybe even a BJ’s or Costco card, and “act” cooperative, they’ll let you through their checkpoint.

That means that TSA will turn air passengers aside who, on principle, refuse to show their government issued ID, but air travelers, who claim their ID was lost or stolen, who give TSA some information about their “supposed” identity, and “make nice” with TSA agents, will fly.

And, of course, we all know well, that terrorists don’t lie.

Is it me, or doesn’t it seem like the TSA ID requirement has nothing to do with security and everything to do with TSA announcing “We’re in control!”?

Here’s something else to consider. Do minors need to show ID to fly? TSA states, “Minor children (younger than 18) are not required to provide an ID at the airport security checkpoint. They will just need their boarding pass.”

I’m wondering how TSA knows who’s 18 years old or older, versus younger than that. For example, I was shaving before I was 16, yet my brother was probably 24–25 years old before he looked 16. I guess TSA doesn’t think there are any young looking adult or teenage terrorists in the world. Do you think that may be a bit shortsighted?

When I add up TSA’s ID requirement variables,

• That terrorists can lie about not providing ID, “appear” cooperative with TSA, then get a “free pass” through TSA security, as long as they submit to an enhanced pat-down and/or full body scanner, and

• Young looking terrorists don’t have to show an ID at TSA security,

it screams to me that the TSA ID requirements are security theater, like so many of their regulations affecting air travelers, and as implemented by TSA, do little or nothing to enhance the needed security of the air traveling public.