There You Stand Without Your Papers, Expecting To Fly

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals told John Gilmore (while rejecting his appeal recently on his airport I.D. requirement challenge) that, according to the TSA, all you have to do to fly anonymously in the U.S. of Archie is to submit to secondary screening. Now "The Identity Project" is seeking citizen volunteers to see if there is any truth to that: they want you to just try and get on a plane without I.D, and tell 'em what happens.

Feel free to bring a copy of the 9th Circuit decision to show your friendly screener the legal facts.

My original feature on the beginnings of Gilmore's long and so far failed legal battle to fly anonymously was Reason's cover story back in Aug-Sept. 2003, and the launching of his appeal was discussed, and celebrated, by me here in August 2004. And see here for a bunch of links to the Reason Foundation's Robert Poole's advocacy and arguments for privatizing the TSA airport screening functions, and also check out Reason's December 2004 rugged debate between Poole and Jim Harper on a variety of issues surrounding airline security and the government's role in it.

NEXT: Parental Consent? More Like Parental Insistence.

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  1. About 2 or 3 years back I brought my ID, but had it packed in one of the bags that got checked, so that I didn’t have it available at security. All I had to do was go through secondary screening to get on the plane. I don’t know if I would have been refused if I hadn’t had ID available at the check-in counter, but I’d say my experience is at least half a data point in the affirmative of the decision.

  2. Everytime I’ve flown out of the People’s Republic of Illinois in the past year, I’ve had to submit to secondary screening to have the privledge of getting on the plane (I’m not sure if I’m on some blacklist and there’s a secret mark on my boarding pass, or if the screeners really think that I’m going to crash a 29 seater into a grain silo.) I have a feeling that they would not take kindly to me denying them my ID. Maybe I’d have to go through the “secondary” secondary screening. I believe some guy in Miami had to go through that.

  3. So what they’re saying is a real terrorist would have a good enough ID to fool the functional illiterates working for the TSA.

  4. I love how if you are under 16, you don’t need an ID. So if you’re around 18, you could always say you’re an older looking 15 year old and get around it…

  5. When I was flying back from the Reason Foundation’s Vegas event–I had lost my I.D.

    I was worried. However, I bypassed all the regular security lines and I went through the secondary screening where the machine blows air all over your body. It took about two minutes and I was through security. My husband also had to bypass regular security because he was with me. We were through security in record time.

    I decided I’d lose my I.D. every ime I fly to Vegas…

  6. It sounds like how you comport yourself and present your case might have something to do with it. I think an interesting experiment might be trying to hit the same checkpoint at same time of day a week apart, one with a “sorry, I lost my I.D.” excuse and one with a Gilmorian “I do not believe that I should be legally required to show you my I.D., and I refuse to do so.”

  7. That link does seem to directly contradict what TSA told the 9th circuit–instead of mentioning anything about secondary screening, it merely says those without I.D. “may be denied boarding.” However, as at least two people on this comment thread have testified, one can indeed get on a plane without I.D. at some places some time, at the very least, by saying you lost it.

  8. It’s probably left to the whim of the TSA guy doing the screening. If you are a confused old man and you try to use your AARP card as ID, you get the secondary screening. If you’re a young Arab man…

  9. Shucks. If you really want to have fun when they ask for ID, present your concealed handgun license.

  10. present your concealed handgun license.

    I’ve actually considered doing that before. Wonder what would happen. It is a government issued ID after all.

    However, I moved an am getting my new one soon, and VA doesn’t put photos on it, so it probably won’t be any good.

  11. A bit of a stretch with the reference in the headline, but as a Neil fan, I’ll take it!

  12. If you really want to have fun when they ask for ID, present your concealed handgun license.

    I carry both my driver’s license and my CC card in the same little holder. Never had a reaction. Here in Texas, a concealed carry card is considered evidence of good citizenship, after all.

  13. Before the TSA came into being, I was coming back from San Francisco. I presented my old passport to the ticket lady. It was expired and they told me I couldn’t get on the plane. I told them it was the same ID I had shown to get on the plane in Phoenix and I didn’t have any trouble. She went to get a superior, and they made me follow a security person to a separate area where they searched my bags and let me get on the plane.

  14. I presented my old passport to the ticket lady. It was expired and they told me I couldn’t get on the plane.

    I guess they figured you stopped being you at the expiration date! lol

  15. I carry both my driver’s license and my CC card in the same little holder. Never had a reaction. Here in Texas, a concealed carry card is considered evidence of good citizenship, after all.

    Ditto for Utah. And since Utah does daily computerized warrant checks on all permittees, it’s also evidence that you don’t have any outstanding warrants.

    But you do sometimes run into the occasional cop who doesn’t like the idea of “civilians” being as well-armed as (or better than) he is.

  16. I strongly discourage anyone from going through this unless you have no choice. I’ve been through “secondary screening” and wouldn’t do it again on a bet. Last year, my then-46-year-old-husband, me (41 then) and our 3 and 6 year old sons were “orange carded” at the Austin airport when preparing to leave for our ski trip to Colorado. Even the ticket agent smiled at this, and everyone behind us in line made comments like “What profile do THEY fit?” (Answer: we’re Defense Exhibit One in the inevitable lawsuit. “See, she’s a middle-aged redhead. Obviously we don’t pick only on nervous-looking Saudi males.”) This secondary screening process involved removing our shoes, belts, and sweaters and standing on a platform in a glass-enclosed booth while our carryons were searched, then sitting, with our sons between us, in another glass booth while our checked luggage was searched. (At least they repacked it nicely and didn’t break anything.) On the way back, leaving from the single-gate Gunnison County Airport, we were searched again, this time with my 51-year-old brother-in-law, his 75 year-old mother and his 10 and 7 year-old-sons. Having missed the news coverage of the terrorist attack by the middle-aged suburbanites with their entire families, I found this experience deeply unpleasant. Now, if I could find any remotely reasonable explanation for this process, I wouldn’t mind as much. I agree that no demographic can be exempt from scrutiny, but until someone can show me evidence that there was some benefit besides training the screeners to search an entire family, I remain really annoyed. Finally, we’re going to Colorado again this Friday, and I fully expect to repeat the experience. I suppose it gives me something else to think about besides the impossibility of that tin can staying airborn from Austin to Denver.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  17. What am I missing here?

    My understanding is that most (all?) airlines won’t give you a boarding pass unless you show ID. Every airline ticket I have ever bought has required the name of the passenger (Anonymous was not an option) traveling. Most ticket’s aren’t transferable (this is an airline restriction usually, not a government one) so they try to make sure that only the person whose name is on the ticket receievs a boarding pass for that ticket. I suppose now with the proliferation of the automated kiosk, it would be much easier to avoid having to show ID to get that boarding pass, but the airlines could easily then start checking ID at the gate and deny boarding to anyone who isn’t the passenger listed on the boarding pass. (Many airlines do check ID at the gate today)

    Is the concern here about the fact that it is TSA who is requiring ID to merely go through security? Because it seems that the airlines themselves, in order to enforce their restrictions on their fares, could easily just make checking ID at the time of boarding mandatory to make sure you are the ticketed passanger.

    When was anyone allowed to travel anonymously even before 9/11 and the advent of TSA and stuff?

  18. ChicagoTom, there was a time (during my lifetime, but, no, I don’t remember when things changed exactly*) when to get a domestic airline ticket all you had to do was give your name. You did not have to prove that was your name, and they just put that on the ticket. If you’d given them an alias noone would have questioned it.

    At no time did you have to provide government issued identification papers.

    So, yes, technically, you could not travel anonymously. But you did not have to prove you were who you said you were, which is damn near as good.

    *It was after 1970. I travelled fairly often by air in the US in the 60s and in Canada in the 70s and was never asked for ID, although by the mid 70s metal detectors and screeners were at all major airports (although not at some of the smaller airports I travelled to). I don’t think I had to show ID when I last flew to Canada from Orlando (1990) except to Canadian Immigration at Toronto International. And they accepted my voter registration card because it had to also be proof of citizenship (which a DL is not) and it didn’t even have a picture.

    And obviously none of this applies to international flights, what with passports, visas and vaccination cards, all of which were pretty hard to get under assumed names.

  19. Isacc,

    It wasn’t all that long ago. I was born in ’78 and I remember flights that didn’t require any photo ID. That had changed by my junior year in college (’99), but it was to protect the airlines’ pricing policies. I also remember when you could meet your party at the gate. *Sigh* Heady days.

  20. And by Isacc I mean Isaac.

  21. And by Isacc I mean Isaac.

  22. And by posting the above twice I mean it once.

  23. (I’m not sure if I’m on some blacklist and there’s a secret mark on my boarding pass, or if the screeners really think that I’m going to crash a 29 seater into a grain silo.)

    Ammonium: It’s your name. ‘Ammonium’ is a rather common criminal alias. You should try something else.

  24. 2 things =

    1) having the same name as aforementioned bearded hippy millionaire activist, i have been placed on the TSA “no fly” watch list, and have been getting ‘secondary screening’ every time i fly for the last ~2 years. (ever since his lawsuit was filed, i’d guess)

    I’m not the only one caught up this way, apparently.

    http://archives.californiaaviation.org/airport/msg26610.html

    Their shithead database just works off names, and no other identifying information – at least for ticket agents and local security personnel. They arent given any additional data because it’s ‘classified’. Only the government can be so stupid on such a scale.

    The contradictory answers to questions about how the watch-list works, and how, ‘regularly updated or amended’ it is, is also my experience. I had the TSA tell me one thing, but then airport security folk (not always the brightest chaps, and therefore probably more often honest) offer completely different information. I believe it is TSA policy to basically dissimulate when necessary in order to ensure that their ‘secret plans’ remain secret except to the secret planners.

    I was flying out of palm springs airport (tiny) last fall, and when the flag came up, the 90+yr old ticketing attendent giggled and was like, ‘hey you’re my first terrorist’. He let me come behind the counter and see the flag, and how the list worked from his point of view. he gets no information other than, ‘no board’ or ‘extra screening’ for each name. If they think it’s the wrong person, they simply call the TSA hotline, say they’ve got a certain “Joe Terrorist”, give the TSA more information about your appearance, age, etc, and then they are cleared to let you through – or rather, i dont even know if they actually clear you. If they call the hotline and say they’re letting you board, they just have to log a note that you were there and boarded. I presume this is to collect the travel records of all potentially evil John Gilmores.

    I applied by mail (with notarized xeroxes of my passport, birth certificate, voter registration) for clearance and have been told that this will not remove me from their database, but put a (another) flag on it saying, ‘mostly harmless terrorist’ or something.

    i dont like the existance of my name on ANY list, if i can avoid it… I mean, once Axciom or any direct marketers get hold of it they’ll start sending me subscription offers to ‘Jihadist Monthly’, or catalogs for industrial chemicals/electronics parts, email from salafist-friendly porn sites (just like regular porn, really, since most porn hardly shows anything except genetalia – but it’s also got a soundtrack of shrieking koranic verses), etc.

    So, anyway,

    2) i have to fly for business this thursday – and am now considering doing the ‘i’d like to take the secondary screening option’ and not answering the question about whether i have ID or not. Just press them on the ‘do i have an option for secondary screening instead of giving you some state-approved identification?’ If so, whoopie, now i can go through the same damn process yet with the satisfaction of having never even hit the TSA watch list.

    Oops. Actually, thats not going to work, since they’ll know my name already from the eTicket booking.

    In truth, you cant fly ‘anonymously’ unless you’re paying cash, and that of course raises flags on its own. So it’s a catch 22.

    And, considering my that my name is already a Threat to the Security of Air Travel, i sincerely doubt they’re going to give me the easy pat downs i’ve received in the past. This will be anal probe time. If i WASNT on the list, i’d certainly want to give it a try, but i’m a little concerned about how they’re going to treat an ‘already flagged’ passenger who refuses ID. I’m not sure i want to experiment in the context of a time sensitive business trip. Maybe on the way back? Then at least if i’m delayed its after i’ve carried out delivering the anthrax to the other mujahadee… I mean, after my ‘analyst conference’…yeah, thats the ticket.

    JG

  25. It’s probably left to the whim of the TSA guy doing the screening. If you are a confused old man and you try to use your AARP card as ID, you get the secondary screening.

    Which is exactly why this country is going the way of the Old Soviet Union. It’s a crushing bureaucracy which is run by the whims of the pencil-neck behind the counter. All the rules and regs simply become a new tool for bullying police officers, corrupt officials or surly clerks to make your life a living hell.

    If you’re a young Arab man…

    … with proper id, you get on board, brandish your box cutter, and fly into the nearest skyscraper or government building. Hooray, the PATRIOT ACT WORKS!

  26. If you really want to have fun when they ask for ID, present your concealed handgun license.

    But if you present the concealed handgun license, it’s no longer concealed… HAAA! I kill me.

  27. Gilmore, you have my sympathy. I look forward to meeting you when we appear as witnesses for the defense in that lawsuit I mentioned.

  28. You also have my deepest sympathy, Gilmore.

    I think it would be hilarious if a drug dealer created an alias with the name “Rick Santorum” or “Michael Chertoff.” (Because we all know that the Patriot Act is really about catching drug dealers, no matter what the apologists say.)

    Senator Santorum goes to the airport and tries to fly, and he’s told that he can only fly if he submits to the extra special screening. And then we hear the sound of a TSA thug putting on the latex gloves…

  29. I managed to fly to Canada from SF post 9-11 without a passport I had forgot without any additional hassle — though the Air Canada flight to Canada was located in the domestic terminal building of SFO which was confusing and funny in and of its self. I got through Canadian customs without a passport without much of a second glance.

    The odd thing about the Gilmore case is that I think security would be much tighter and you would definitely have to show i.d. of some sort if all the airports were privately run and could get sued for letting terrorists through their gates to fly airplanes into buildings…Gilmore in Libertopia would have to show i.d. anyways…

  30. You didn’t have to show an i.d. to fly as late as 1996. I remember vividly the first time I was asked, because I had been mugged and relieved of my i.d. two days earlier and hadn’t gotten a new one. I missed my flight. See this story–Reason has been on the case on this from day one…
    https://reason.com/9703/ci.bd.gonna.shtml
    And the “we have always been at war with Oceania”-ness of the fact that this has actually been forgotten–that lots of Americans believe it has ALWAYS been this way–scares the hell out of me.

  31. Brian, some day people will tell you that we have always been subject to cavity searches before boarding planes.

  32. And the “we have always been at war with Oceania”-ness of the fact that this has actually been forgotten–

    Brian, are you a Eurasian or Eastasian spy? Don’t bother to answer; we’ll soon have the truth out of you. Please report to Miniluv for counseling and therapy.

  33. You didn’t have to show an i.d. to fly as late as 1996.

    Thank you for that date Brian. I was really not sure, but I had a feeling it was a fairly recent development.

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