Because Mike has too many answers and not enough questions.

Faster Airport Screening Secret: “The Great No-ID Airport Challenge”

Posted by Mike Bijon June 09, 2006

After all the discussions about building solid online identity systems, Wired has the story in The Great No-ID Airport Challenge of how identity real world identification proves to be even less necessary and more useful to identity thieves. Are we focusing our attention in the wrong places or could an online identity system help to enforce meat space identities?

In early 2005 I discovered that an expired driver’s license is as good as having no license at all. After several mail delivery/theft problems in my apartment building I had somehow missed the renewal forms that are mailed several months prior to license expiration in California. Thankfully, the security screeners at LAX reminded me that I needed to renew my license … and in the process pulled me out of line for a more thorough security inspection. The extra inspection (more details below) was faster than waiting in the normal security line. Unfortunately shorter lines in the enhanced screening process are probably over now. Jim Harper accepted a challenge from John Gilmore, co-founder of the EFF, to fly without his ID and “having gotten through screening perhaps even faster than he would have if he’d shown ID.”

More on how I started requesting that TSA send me to the “extra screening” line:

Even with almost an hour to spare before my flight I was worried that the extra screening would keep me from making my plane. The security screener ushering me around and between the ropes assured me with a grin, “You’ll be better off this way.” Such an assurance, and that grin from someone wearing a TSA badge, didn’t reduce my worries at all.

Only one other traveller was enjoying the extra screening at the far end of the security check queues. Immediately two of the six TSA screeners working with or watching him stepped out to take my luggage and the tray with my phone, change, and keys in it. With that kind of attention all the checks and sweeps of my carry-on items and self were complete and I was on my way in just 4 minutes. That left me with about 15 minutes, waiting for my wife to complete the standard screening line, to consider how receptive the TSA screeners would be if I started requesting the additional screening in the future.

I’ve asked three time so far, none while travelling with my wife, and only once was I allowed into the “extra” screening line – during a very busy evening at Chicago’s ORD. Really I think the TSA screener checking IDs was just irritated that her coworkers running the extra security queue were just sitting around. And, she did me a favor to the tune of 30 minutes not spent sitting instead of waiting in line.