Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homeland Insecurity - Air Security Loopholes

Each time I fly, I find myself fascinated by the changing strategies of the Transportation Security Administration.  Some idiot tries to blow up his shoe, we need to take off our shoes.  Liquid explosives?  We need to get tiny bottles of shampoo (I am sure the Tiny Shampoo Lobby was behind this one).  No lighters, but matches are ok.  Never mind, lighters are ok again.

Meanwhile, one huge loophole in airport security seems to be constant to me.  When you check in for your flight, you present your ID and interact with the desk agent who may ask a few security questions.  So far so good.  Next we pass through the security screening (I'll save my comments on that process for another post).  Now, having been x-rayed, metal-detected, full-body-irradiated, prodded and/or probed, you are allowed to enter the "secure area" containing the gates that lead to the planes.

Here's what I don't get - my flight is announced, and I line up to board.  The gate agent announces, out loud, every time, "You only need your boarding pass - you don't need your ID!"

Wha-wha-whaaat?  So what you are telling me is that anyone within the secure area could swap boarding passes (or bring a second with them), and then travel as another person?  This is secure?  There is no way that the TSA can have any confidence of who is on what flight, and the gate agents are proudly broadcasting this!  I do not understand in the least how this loophole remains in place year after year, while we focus on theoretical exploding shoes.

Add to this equation the "Fake Boarding Pass Generator" which was in the news a couple of years back, or its equivalent, and I could easily enter the "secure area" under a false identity and then use someone else's legitimate boarding pass to fly without ever revealing my identity - or use a fake boarding pass matching my real ID which gets me past security without my identity being screened (which is part of the ticketing process).  Of course the security researcher who made the boarding pass generator to demonstrate the ease with which security could be compromised was persecuted by the FBI, so maybe I should just shut up now.

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