Forget Your ID? TSA Places Forgetful Fliers On A List That Helps Track "Potential Terrorists"

USAToday says that the TSA was placing fliers who forgot their ID in a database along with people who have been questioned for “suspicious behavior” or who “violated security laws.” In an interview, TSA chief Kip Hawley told the paper that the “the information helps track potential terrorists who may be “probing the system” by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.”

Later that day Hawley called back and said that the TSA had changed its policy and would no longer be adding forgetful fliers to the database if they could prove their identity.

Later Tuesday, Hawley called the newspaper to say the agency is changing its policy effective today and will stop keeping records of people who don’t have ID if a screener can determine their identity. Hawley said he had been considering the change for a month. The names of people who did not have identification will soon be expunged, he said.

USAToday says the database contains the following information:

TSA can keep records for 15 years of someone’s name, address, Social Security number, nationality, race and physical features, as well as identifying information about a traveling companion, according to a report by the Homeland Security Department privacy office.

Fliers without ID placed on TSA list [USAToday]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mike says:

    Just curious: why would anyone fly without identification? Seems like something that you would always have on your person. I mean, it would make identifying your chared remains easier.

  2. Murph1908 says:

    Oh, ok.

    So someone who can prove their identity can’t be a terrorist.

    Good to know.

  3. Christovir says:

    As I’m sure you all remember, the 9/11 and London 7/7 terrorists all had proper ID, and all were in the country legally. In fact, I am not aware of a single case of terrorism being committed with a false/no ID. Like virtually all “security” programs, this is about government power, not safety.

  4. mariospants says:

    Thus ends your liberties. I hope they at least add the drunken SOBs who fight on airplanes as well.

  5. SkokieGuy says:

    @linus: Because people on vacation can be robbed. If you’re in France and you’re wallet is stolen, it’s kinda hard to get a replacement driver’s license till you’re back home.

  6. mike says:

    @: That makes more sense than my theory. I guess it goes to show that making copies of your passport and stuff is always a good idea.

  7. yargrnhoj says:

    I don’t know, sounds fair to me. The alternative could be go back to denying them boarding if they can’t produce their ID. There is something suspicious (or stupid) about someone who would forget their ID more than once when flying, so I can see tracking it.

  8. Zenne says:

    Out of curiosity…do airlines take temporary ID cards (paper issued while yours is in the mail, etc)? If not, what else should be brought along as additional identification?

  9. I heard that 99% of people who fly on planes are probably terrorists and until we prove otherwise I think we should do every invasive, overbearing, and thoughtless thing to stop those people from getting to their destination without actually wanting to hijack the plane and crash it into a building.

    Thank god we will have our freedoms.

  10. NotATool says:

    @linus: I wondered the same thing…but I would guess “wallet/purse stolen during vacation” would probably be the most popular reason.

  11. bobpence says:

    @: People who forget their ID once may have a return trip before they are able to find or replace their ID, which is the first reason I would think the TSA would want to keep a list of them. Make sure they answer a different set of questions for the return flight, maybe even compare a picture from their first “forgetful” episode. People can and do impersonate others for any number of reasons, and I’m all for preventing it in air travel.

  12. nicklogan says:

    oh don’t worry, they will probably loose all the information some way or another.

  13. alstein says:


    probably to marketers to boot.

    TSA needs to be abolished. I bet TSA has cost more money then it’s saved, and it doesn’t make me feel safer at all.

  14. prisonplanet says:

    Welcome to the POLICE STATE…papers please?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Someone explain how ID checks prevent terrorism. The 9/11 hijackers had IDs. If anything, ID checks make sure someone hasn’t stolen your ticket looking for a free getaway, but IDs are easily faked, and they don’t scan IDs. To paraphrase George Carlin, this sort of airport security is just a ruse to make white people feel safe

  16. TideGuy says:

    And they should get rid of the pesky x-ray machines and metal detectors too.

  17. Anonymous says:

    @: Speaking of which, I wonder if the gulag will be making a return anytime soon

  18. ARP says:

    @: A friend lost his wallet in New Orleans. They let him on, but subjected him to additional screening. So, yes that is most common.

    I don’t get it, we could save billions of dollars (smaller lines, more on-time flights, fewer employers) and make our country safer if we simply employed competent TSA agents who understand what suspicious activity is and how to spot it. You can fight terrorism by collectin enormous amounts of data on people and then employ incompetent people to try to fit the information together. It can only be used for nefarious purposes. Despite the claims of our current adminstration (sorry, I went there), good police work foils more crimes and terrorist plots than all this big brother stuff.

  19. ARP says:

    @ARP: Sorry you CAN’T fight terrorism by collection all this information. Well, you can, but its not very effective.

  20. Anonymous says:

    @: All I’m saying is, as long as they don’t scan them, IDs are, for all intents and purposes, useless

  21. absentmindedjwc says:

    Very true, if a terrorist group wants to do something, there is nothing short of gun-carrying air marshals on every plane that will stop them. All of the 9/11 hijackers not only had ID’s, they were VALID ID’s that they got through proper means.

    This is why airport security is referred to as Security Theater, it really does nothing but give people a false sense of security. Every year, you have a report on the news about airport security finding a hole in the fence at a major intl. airport, or a discrepancy in airport security, or some way for someone to fleece the system.

  22. henrygates says:

    The war against terrorism is over. We lost.

  23. milk says:

    My poor little old uncle (actually little, ~ 5’3″) was detained at an airport for hours because his and my aunt’s last name is DeYoung, and apparently there was a DeYoung on the terrorist list. Their first names didn’t even match.

    And then there was the time I spent in customs for having a clean, unused pipe that Officer Sweet (real name) was convinced I would use for drugs. We were detained because there was a possibility I may do something wrong at some point in the future. Man did he and other two guys get an earful of expletives from me.

    They don’t need a reason to hold you or take your information anymore. I’m actually becoming more fearful of my own country, and that pisses me off.

  24. Jon Mason says:

    Two points:

    If a terrorist is “probing the system” by trying to get through with no ID – what makes you think he is using anything other than a completely made up name?

    Totally agree that cursory ID checks are pointless – the ONLY way they would make sense is if they were checked properly as you check luggage AND as you board the plane (not at the security area after which potential terrorists would be free to switch flights/tickets/identities without any further checks when they board.)

  25. mike says:

    @ARP: Well, it goes the theory that the more information you have available to you the easier it is to find something.

    The most obvious example I can think of is research papers. I remember in high school when I did research the old fashion way. Go to the library, look in the card-file, find the encyclopedia, find listed sources, go to another library…

    When the Internet became a plethora of information, it made researching EASY!

  26. stinerman says:


    ID checks don’t work period. Security expert Bruce Schneier has written extensively on the subject. Here is one of his standard essays.

  27. stacye says:

    @TomCruisesTesticles: I think it’s to make the flying experience so painful, that you wouldn’t possibly want to go through with it…. even if it meant you blew yourself up.

  28. If we want to get on the discussion of effectiveness of our current administration:

    2,998 killed in 9-11 attack (I know they aren’t all American deaths)
    6,291+ wounded in 9-11 attack (I know they aren’t all American wounded)
    4,087+ Americans killed in just Iraq since 9-11
    30,182+ Americans wounded in just Iraq since 9-11
    = About
    7000 Americans Killed during and since 9-11
    36500 Americans wounded during and since 9-11
    = About
    43500 Americans Killed and wounded during and since 9-11
    5000 estimated terrorists captured or killed since 9-11.

    Yep looks like our methods are currently not working.

  29. tekkierich says:

    @linus: I helped drive my brother fro the east coast to his new home in California. Amongst all the preparations I noticed by about the time we hit Ohio that I did not have my wallet.

    I flew home without ID and it was not all that much of a hassle. This was in 2005

  30. Anonymous says:

    ID checks don’t even work as a deterrent for the lazy ne’er do well. Anyone can get a fake

  31. @Christovir: There’s a good quote from The Battle of Algiers that goes a little something like “We will not catch any terrorists at a the checkpoints. If anyone’s papers are in order, it is the terrorists.” Which is perfectly logical: It makes a whole lot of sense to ensure that your paperwork is flawless when getting caught at a checkpoint would jeopardize both your mission and your organization.

  32. Landru says:

    Shhhhh.. Quit making waves. I’m sure that even talking about this will put us all on one of thoses list. Why do you all hate freedom?

  33. Sockatume says:

    I heard the TSA was considering switching to name-plus-DOB for the terrorist list, too. Which would help. I don’t know what cabal of ineptitude decided that names alone would work, but it’s taken them a while to wake up. I’m just glad I have an uncommon surname.

  34. Breach says:

    Bunch of Marxist bullshit is all that is.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Yes, that is the dirty little secret about these things. On the surface, they make ignorant people feel like someone is doing something to keep them safe; but in reality, it’s your government slowly turning authoritarian.

  36. nicemarmot617 says:

    Well of course this ID stuff has nothing to do with terrorism. We’re well past the point of no return, and the Bush administration used the terrorist attacks as an excuse to push through their fascist version of America. Robert Heinlein always mentions compulsory ID as a sign of the death of a society. ID has never, and never will be, an effective method of preventing ANYTHING. I could even make a list.

    Preventing underage people from buying drugs/alcohol/tobacco:
    Preventing terrorists from attacking planes/America:
    Preventing people who shouldn’t drive from driving:
    Preventing bad people from traveling into our country:
    Preventing people from stealing other people’s identities:
    Preventing voter fraud:

    Am I missing anything?

  37. timmus says:

    Turning security & defense into a lucrative cottage industry

  38. NotATool says:


    I think it’s to make the flying experience so painful, that you wouldn’t possibly want to go through with it…. even if it meant you blew yourself up.

    What an interesting theory, make the process more painful than the crime you’re trying to prevent…

  39. RagingBoehner says:

    This policy seems reasonable to me. If you don’t have an ID — and there are good reasons why you might not such as loss or theft — you should be required to answer a few questions to identify yourself. I see no reason why they can’t make a note of the fact that you didn’t have an ID that time, to reference patterns in the future.

    What does it matter if the TSA keeps a log of when people forget their IDs if they still let you board the plane?

  40. econobiker says:

    Get a separate drivers license just for showing at the TSA id screening. Keep it separate from your car rental license. They don’t actually care what address it is.

    I -am- glad that the TSA is finally staffing the ID checks versus some airport security subcontractor funky who is responsibile to no one (not that the TSA is actually responsible to someone but at least you can complain about them to somebody.)

  41. dako81 says:

    More reasons to not fly, except this isn’t going to stop at the airports. It’ll move past them. Soon.

  42. atavisticat says:

    @: But they should be placed on a “Frequently loses their ID” List not the TERRORIST WATCH LIST.

    Geez, everyone is just willing to roll over and take it now because otherwise “the terrorists will win.” Seems like they are doing a bang-up job threatening American liberties and freedoms already.

  43. ARP says:

    @: You might be refering to fascism, which is the opposite of marxism (far left v. far right). Nazi’s were fascists. They prosecuted socialists and communists, made Jews wear stars, made gays wear pink triangles, encouraged people to report each other, ultra-nationalistic, war is always justified, we can do bad things because we’re a good country, etc. So when Bill O’ or Hannity insult someone by comparing them to Nazi’s, its actually sort of ironic. Of course, communist states also have their own personal freedom problems, which makes the political spectrum less of a spectrum (linear) and more of a circle.

  44. pax says:

    @Christovir: Not necessarily. IIRC, they entered legally, but “entered legally”–that is, with real identification and visa–does not equal “present legally.” I believe that at least some of the 9/11 hijackers were visa overstayers, meaning that they were not present legally in the country, with not many more legal protections than your average border jumpers. Many, many people who are classed as “illegal immigrants” along with border jumpers are visa overstayers–they come on tourist visas, student visas, or short-term work visas and simply never leave.

  45. @Zenne: Not on their own, nope (btw, it isn’t the airlines that are the issue so much as the TSA, although you do have to present ID when checking luggage normally as well). I’ve had to travel once just after I’d lost my license, and once with the little paper temporary ID you mentioned. The airline told me that you basically needed some kind of picture id and some kind of id issued by the federal or state government. In my case my social security card and a student id got me by, and theoretically this should also work with a wide variety of other kinds of id.

    That said, you will occasionally run into a TSA employee that isn’t familiar with the policies of their own company and couldn’t give a rat’s a** what an airline employee told you, so if you ever end up in this situation and are able to it’s wise to go the airport as early as possible and expect to be grilled…

  46. s25843 says:


    Here in MA, our temp paper ID’s say “Not Valid for Identification” in bright red letters.

  47. Anonymous says:

    @SkokieGuy: You’d ahve to go to the US Embassy and get a new temporary passport afiak. The world is not like America… you need to fly with passport internationally. -_-

  48. ajlei says:

    @: If you mean, scanning the barcode on the back of your driver’s license/other form of ID, I have had mine scanned in at McCarran. But, maybe it was.. for fun. Who knows.

  49. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    TSA: “The Shitlist Authors”

  50. quirkyrachel says:

    To echo others on here, what kind of idiot tries to fly without formal ID?

  51. flyingphotog says:

    @linus: I have to agree. There’s no good reason why someone wouldn’t have their ID with them at all times. And unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 8 years, everyone knows you’re supposed to have an ID to fly.

  52. flyingphotog says:


    WTF does verifying identity for security purposes have to do with liberties and freedoms?

  53. nicemarmot617 says:


    While I certainly agree that everyone knows to bring their ID to the airport, why on earth would you have your ID with you at all times? I don’t bring my ID when I walk my dog, or go to the beach, or visit friends. Are you implying I should, in the event my identity and intentions be questioned? If a cop asks me for ID when I am not doing anything wrong, I will tell him where to stick it.

    And you can certainly wind up without your ID at the airport. My BF lost his wallet on a recent trip and had to go through the new no-id rigmarole. There was nothing else he could do, aside from getting a new license when he got home.

  54. Jandek says:

    Is anyone REALLY shocked about this? REALLY?