back to article Forgot your ID? You must be a terrorist

The US Transportation Security Administration has done a backflip on a policy of adding people who had forgotten their ID to its database of suspect fliers. The scheme kicked off in June, according to USA Today, the same time the agency officially declared people could not board planes in the US unless they showed ID. At the …


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  1. John Chadwick

    One wonders.....

    When too much information becomes the weak point....

  2. The Dark Lord

    Terminally Suspicous Agency?

    Treating everyone as suspicious just means you have no means to track those who are actually suspicious. There is no differentiator. Unfortunately, the world's security "authorities" seem unable to grasp this concept.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    weak vs. stron points

    Hinting that there are weak points to this system implies that there are strong points aswell... which of ause there aren´t.

    Airline passangers should all be locked up as they are all obviously terrorists.... Aren´t they?

    Ano cause I´ll be flying to the big bad US soon.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    >> Being added to the database, effectively meant that innocent but absent-minded

    >> fliers in the US would find their IDs slapped in a database with everyone else the

    >> TSA decided was an undesirable, including people who breached flight securities

    >> regs or acted suspiciously. Or are foreign. (We’re just guessing on that last one.)

    I don't think you would actually need to be 'foreign', having a 'foreign' appearance should suffice.

    Mines the black Bisht cloak.

  5. JBR

    forgetful is suspicious

    as in "I can't remember where I was when they was robbed guv"

    The real question is whether the risk from terror outweighs the cost in terms of restrictions of civil liberties and general aggro/ privacy invasion

    Personally I think no but that's because all this terror mularkey p**ses me off especially at the heel holes that are our airports, but I'm in no position to judge the terror threat.

    I reckon it's a lot less than the government reckons though, and it's just a handy excuse to line their and their mates pockets with my hard earned

  6. Knowledge
    Jobs Horns

    Probably because...

    ...the 'Terror Database' is actually just 'The Database' being introduced by (not much) stealth

  7. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Perfectly reasonable...

    ... At least, no *less* reasonable than the original idea. After all, what's the point of a no-fly list if you can circumvent it by saying "Sorry, I forgot." at the check-in? Even someone stupid enough to get a job as a suicide bomber can be taught to say *that*.

    Of course, the real question is not "Are you a dangerous terrorist?" but "Have you come under the influence of someone who is?" and for that you need to check IQ, not ID.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illogical, captain

    They can't add you to the naughty list if they don't know who you are.

    They can't be certain who you are if you don't have ID.

    OK, try again:

    If they add you to the list, it means they think you're not who you say you are.

    The name in the database is who you said you were.

    So this is a list of people who might have been impersonated by other (unknown) people?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So if Bin Laden forgets his passport

    he has free reign to fly anywhere in the USA - great security from a great nation (insert irony icon here !!!)

  10. chuckufarley

    A free thinker...

    I always get subjected to the "extra security scan" at US airports. I makes no difference whether or not I have my ID and/or passport. I speak my mind when I have something to say and I am not afraid of what anyone thinks about it in return.

    We are talking about the USA here.

    Maybe if I didn't post things like this online I'd have less problems traveling, but then again this is the "Information Age" and I want the people in charge to know what I think. Since they'd never bother listen to me if they even if bothered to come to my local pub, I say it in places like this instead.

    For more info on the title of this comment see:

    Coat, Hat, Pub.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a well thought out policy

    >on a policy of adding people who had forgotten their ID to its database of suspect fliers

    So you turn up with no ID and they ask, "Who are you?" To which you reply, "George Bush", and they add you to the no fly list.

    The only surprise here is that someone noticed the flaw and revoked the policy.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the War on Tourism continues

    Now they're targeting those pesky internal tourists too...

  13. Lyndon Hills

    No ID?

    So they are unable to confirm your ID because you've forgotten your documents. They are going to add you to their database which is guaranteed to cause you trouble when you travel in the future.

    Clearly any sane person who has forgotten their documents will claim to be someone else. Anybody else. The database will be even less useful, as time goes on.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    I know you were just guessing on the 'foreigners' reason. However theyre 'merkins, and having pot-plant I.Q.s they're probably a little thin on their own ideas. Probably best not to give them any eh? Just in case one of them works out how to use a computer and manages to find el Reg.

  15. dervheid

    Getting to be...

    harder to get into (and around in) the US than it ever was to get into the USSR.

    And about as worthwhile from a business/tourism point of view.

    The Terrorists have succeeded. The US authorities are terrified.

  16. Ferry Boat


    Why do they think that being dodgy about ID means you are a terrorist? Terrorists usually have the best ID, their own. As for probing for weak points, why would they bother there are plenty of well known ones and you won't need to worry if you've your own ID. If they are at the airport it's really too late. You need to catch them well before that. The TSA conducts its own tests and they often manage to sneak things like guns past security points. Get the handcart ready and set the SatNav to 'Hell'.

  17. Rob


    1. Forgetfully leave wallet at home.

    2. Turn up at airport, sans ID, give *a* name to TSA.

    3. Have no way of proving that it's really your name.

    4. This name, which nobody knows if it's yours or not, gets added to a database.

    Is it just me, or is there a teensy little flaw here...?

  18. MrGutts

    TSA = Joke

    TSA is a bunch of freaking rejects and that agency is damn money pit for the US tax payers. Most of the goofs checking people at the gates are x-criminals. They can't even do a proper background check.

    Sometimes I wish I lived in the Europe/UK with you guys/gals.

    Dear Sir,

    Your now labeled a terrorist for writing this.



  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's no such thing as too much information.

    You can simply filter it.

    There is however, too little information.

  20. Chris Adams

    Weak point

    Surely if a terrorist wanted to probe for a weak point all he'd have to do is carry ID?

    Anyone in any kind of security position should know that the biggest threat comes from (trusted) inside, not (untrusted) outside your borders.

    The more you rely on data as a source of information the less able you are to react flexibly on that information. You become predictable and that is a weakness.

    This is where I add would a snide comment about our own ID Card proposals, but, you know, choir, preaching and all that.

  21. Dan Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Is this the same TSA that forgot where a laptop was for nine days?

    And forgot to encrypt its contents?

  22. Jeremy

    One also wonders...

    When people will just say "sod it, I'll walk" because it's less hassle than dealing with TSA.

  23. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Black Helicopters

    I wonder...

    if you cannot show an ID, how do they know you are giving your true name? Could this be a way of getting the name George W. Bush on the terrorist list?

    Black helicopters, because I am sure you could get (dragged) into one of those without ID

  24. Dan Salter
    Thumb Down


    If these people haven't got their ID & have been unable to prove who they are, what information is going to be input to the database?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    Do these cretins know how counterproductive it is to have a database of false positives? Not only does it mean those not flagged get an easier access, but that people learn to distrust the database and any information it contains.

    Its obviously not fit for purpose. Its also obvious the TSA is managed by buffoons.

    If they want to be efficient, if not politically correct, then simply make a database of known muslims and check them AND anyone looking like they come from a muslim country. Far higher probability of detecting a bad guy - not that any security screening has ever caught a terrorist.

  26. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    Dumb insolence

    I wonder how on earth I'll ever be able to get into the jail system over there to visit my friends. It's like the dumb insolence infraction in the army - you can't win. As with Pinochet, you must not only say and do what the authorities demand, you must also smile and show enthusiasm while doing it.

    Next thing you know they'll be covering you with electrodes and sweat sensors to check if you're feeling icky about what they're doing.

    Think I'll go to Canada, walk across the border in some forest, and hitch down to LA.

    (Paris cos she's in LA but doesn't have to bother about this shit...)

  27. Chris
    Paris Hilton

    Forget that

    How can your Id be put in a database if you've forgotten it ?

  28. Kevin Fields
    Paris Hilton

    Just who is the terrorist?

    TSA won't have to worry about me bombing a plane anytime soon. Thanks to their own terrorism of American consumers, I will never step on an airplane. Hopefully I'll never have to hear "Papers, please" while driving down the Interstate.

    Paris, because I heard she forgot her I.D. once and was frisked for hours by security...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One wonders if....'s going to be unlawful (in USA and UK) to be forgetfull. Imagine:-

    Policman: "OK, lets have a dawn raid on Joe Bloggs..."

    PoliceWoman: "What's he done, Sir?"

    Policeman: "he forget to empty his wheelie bin yesterday. A full survailance team watched him forget!"

    Policewoman: "The Bast**d! I hope the'll throw the book at him!"

    Policeman: " where's my notebook.....Arhhh....!

    Policewoman: "Ya nicked, sir!"

  30. Graham Robinson

    Get back at your enemies

    So... just buy a ticket in the name of 'Steve Jobs' and then get to the airport saying you've forgotten your ID. No more flying for the apple man.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    weak points

    "potential terrorists who were “probing” for weak points in US airport security."

    I can tell you where the weak points are in any system; the people that use or manage it.

    (AC because now I have revealed the big secret, I will be on the undesirable list!)

  32. Adrian Midgley

    they've gone to all the trouble of determining that the person is safe to fly that time ...

    It seems likely they are safer than average to fly at subsequent times than those who have not been checked to that extent.

    Odd, really. I'm glad I don't have to run or invent a workable system that makes good sense though.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @John Chadwick

    Too much information? I wouldnt nesscarily say too much information as too much belief that everyone is a terrorist. Especially for forgetting or losing your wallet.

    /Anon cause I dont need to have the TSA outside my door wondering

  34. Anonymous Coward


    I thought those ID's were called passports?

    And if they are letting people in/out without them.. think I might of found where there going wrong!

    But I'm guessing their database of suspect fliers is probably filled with Americans' - well they do cause alot of problems for the American government so you woudl see why they would target them.

    *\. Taking mine off why the sound of a rubber glove goes on in the background.

  35. bluesxman

    Simple answer

    Ban everyone from flying until they can prove they aren't a terrorist.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Who do they register???

    If you don't have an ID, how do they know who to register in the database????

  37. andy

    @One wonders.....

    They'll simply cavity search everyone...

  38. John Dallman

    TSA: fighting climate change

    Seriously, the TSA makes a load more sense as a covert operation to reduce people's willingness to fly then it does as a security operation. Aviation is a very obvious source of CO2, although rather smaller than cars, electricity generation, and probably several other fields. The Bush Administration clearly can't say out loud that they want to shrink the aviation sector, but it's clearly a benefical side-effect of the TSA.

  39. dervheid

    @ Simple Answer

    I'm sure they already considered that. Give them another few minor, or one major 'incident' as an excuse, however...

    Back to the trains...

    Then the buses...

    Then the roads...

    "Papers Please"

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Quick! Look at China!

    They're killing Tibetan monks! (Quick, add 18-25 year olds to the list, as they're likely to be louts!)


    Add that guy to the list, too.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    I'm George Bush, but I forgot my ID

    PS the new site layout looks crap on an ordinary 1280x800 LCD. I dread to think what it would look like on my dual monitor 3520x1200 setup.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TSA rules

    Pilots are arrogant bitches!

  43. Gary

    Why I fly myself

    It's looking more and more appealing to eventually get my jet rating, so I can just fly myself. Commercial airline security is getting silly, but the TSA hasn't yet caught on to imposing the same restrictions to general aviation. And GA is the one thing that isn't yet ruined here in the US.

  44. Al Storer

    Wait a minute

    you mean they WEREN'T requiring ID for internal flights before? How long have we had such a requirment in Europe? I can't fly from London to Edinburgh without a Passport, Driver's Licence (photocard version only) or other approved ID. How did they actually know who's been flying all this time?

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    TSA Holes

    The whole thing is poorly thought out and full of holes. Always try to check in on-line because if it won't let you, it probably means you've been randomly selected for an airport check-in and a date with the TSA special grilling squad. Yes, it happened to me once, hence the AC this time. Can't go around giving away secrets, after all.

  46. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Why do you do it...?

    "...Ano(nymous) cause I´ll be flying to the big bad US soon..."

    May one respectfully ask WHY you are going to the US if they treat people like this?

    The only way to stop them is to stop going there

  47. Chris iverson
    Thumb Down

    no more flying for me

    Going to drive everywhere now. Im done, let the TSA and the airlines fail until my gov't bails them out.....again

  48. Aron A Aardvark

    All Heil Zee Homelanders!

    Remember folks, anyone not wearing a TSA or Homeland Security uniform is automatically added to The Infallible Database of Suspicions.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Being forgetful

    like the way most .gov agencies "forget" to purge their databases?

  50. dervheid
    Dead Vulture

    @ Gary

    I appear to have missed your happy little band for consideration in my 'simple answer' reply!

    But I'll bet that THEY haven't!

    USA - No Flying

  51. Duffy

    Just great

    If it really were all about security, why would they let the non ID people onto the plane in the first place? As if the airlines aren't trying to get our money in the first place, shouldn't they tell TSA not to let anyone on board without IDs (excluding little children, or are they terrorist midgets in disguise?)? The airline gets to keep the money for the ticket and fewer people are on planes...

    I just realized something, it might be a crime to punish the stupid for leaving their ID. So not only are you dumb for forgetting the ID, but as a reward the TSA labels you a terrorist for 15 years. Great door prize federal government

  52. Steve Evans
    Paris Hilton


    I like this idea...

    Black list forgetful people...

    Then black list all those who wait until they are standing in front of the xray machine before removing their belt and shoes, even though it's been obvious to a blind man 30 people back in the queue that taking them off before smooths things out.

    Then black list the people who haven't worked out that if you empty all your change, keys, phone etc into your coat pocket whilst queuing, you can just chuck your coat, the shoes and the belt through the machine and then grab them at the other side instead of fumbling about with those little trays.

    Oh, and black list those who have stomachs that ooze over the armrests on both side, or at least make them pay for two seats and/or the excess baggage rate!

    Then, airline travel might be slightly more bearable.

    Not that I'm ever going to fly to the USA, with my common surname I'm bound to get the rubber glove!

    Paris, cos she doesn't leave anything concealed about her person.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Papiere, bitte.

    "Hopefully I'll never have to hear "Papers, please" while driving down the Interstate."

    This is already happening on buses and trains. It's targeted at finding illegal immigrants, but as seems to happen more frequently now in the land of the "free", it's also being directed at "foreign-looking" types. I would guess they have to ask everyone "are you a US citizen?" first, so as to know whose papers to demand.

    Not that large a step from there to just asking EVERYONE for their papers, is it?

    Isn't the view scary from partway down this slippery slope?

  54. Andy Bright


    Just one more reason to not fly in the US. I live somewhere where driving is not an option, so without flying I get no 'summer holidays' or whatever.

    But I'd decided a long time ago that airlines were ripping me off, and that was well before people started getting charged $15 for bringing a suitcase or $50 because petrol costs a lot (poor dears, unlike the rest of us apparently they have to pay a bit more for fuel these days).

    The cost of flying to most places I wanted to visit was around $400 return when I first moved here, 8 years ago. It's now (including the fees) around $800. $1600 was okay, I could afford that. $3200 before I've paid for hotels, car rental and whatever else I'll need to make my holiday a happy one, makes spending 2 weeks in the sun too rich for me.

    Besides, I'm not sure I trust the TSA anyway. They miss exactly the same number of test bombs and guns as the previous lot they replaced. They have a peculiar idea of what constitutes a threat. Fake guns and bombs are okay, ham sandwiches and toy soldiers are not. Forget the ID thing, they simply can't be trusted to make sure regular crazy people don't get on board planes, let alone terrorists. I suppose one small silver lining is they've yet to ban a passenger for wearing Optimus Prime on a t-shirt. 'I hate GW' on the other hand..

    What does this all mean? Well the airlines don't get my business, the tourist industry of whatever states I would visit don't get my business, and while singularly that hardly hits them where it hurts, I'm not the only one. My guess is eventually congressmen that were screaming for foreigners to be shut outside the US will be screaming for them to be let back in, because their constituents will be screaming that they're losing their jobs because of this stupidity.

  55. Nomen Publicus

    No terrorists to hound?

    The TSA needs to have people to suspect because there are very, very few actual terrorists. In fact there are so few that the TSA actually has no job to do. But there is a rule, or an old charter or something that states that once a US government funded organisation is created IT WILL NOT DIE.

    So, the TSA needs suspects to retain its funding. As there are no real terrorists, tourists are almost next door in the dictionary.

  56. Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Robinson

    He has his own jet

  57. Duffy

    TSA one more level of frustration between you and your trip

    Some government programs and agencies do die. They're just small obscure ones only 10 people heard of. I do agree with Nomen about the lack of terrorists. They're not going to use airplanes to commit another attack. How about securing our sea ports DHS? They're more important than the airlines. Hell you're lucky if the flight you're on ever leaves on time. Hard to carry out a precision based plan with something that never runs on schedule

  58. David Barr

    Sadly nobody wants to tell them where to shove it

    Me included. When I'm flying over to the US, and going through those ridiculous searches, I'm not going to rock the boat. It's all very well for me to bleat on about draconian policies and my civil liberties being void, but I'm not going to willingly make my flights any more unpleasant than they already are.

    Sadly it's the job of the politicians I elect in the UK to make sure that these kinds of things do not happen in the UK. And it's the job of the Foreign Office to put diplomatic pressure on countries outside of the UK which have daft policies like these.

    Sadly there's no chance of the UK government even attempting to posture to the US on this issue.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Everyone has a job to do

    and you b*stards (that's the readers, not El Reg alone) will be the first to crow the TSA didn't try hard enough to stop the next lot. And rest assured, there will be more sooner or later since no security measures can be 100% impenetrable all the time as long as there are people in the loop.

    All they can do is minimize the risks to the rest of us as much as they can - sure it's a pain to go thru hoops every time you want to fly but which would you prefer; an extra two or three hours in the terminal or waiting for judgement day buried 6ft under cos you couldn't be arsed to wait?

    Dead budgie as there ain't no ostrich to bury its' head.

  60. J
    Black Helicopters

    @ people saying "give other name"

    Sure but... Make sure that's the same name that is printed on your ticket, and pay cash! Probably easier to just remember the sodding ID after all...

    Well, last time I checked my name was printed on the ticket and/or boarding pass. AND I'm sure they have my credit card details too. AND my shopping list. AND my browsing/download history. AND...

  61. Alex


    You will never find me complaining that security measures should be tighter. If we want to avoid any more bombs going off in the UK or US we should stop setting our own off in other countries.

    Not that any of this has anything to do with preventing bombs or terr'ists - it's just the usual combination of intimidation, deception and abuse designed to gradually wean us off those troublesome ideas of freedom, self-determination and independence so that we all cower in fear of the evil monster and get on with our daily responsibilities of working our lives away for the benefit of our masters.

    It's awful when people are blown up - at home AND abroad. Apologists for the system which allows this to continue share responsibility. That means you.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    I'm on the list

    It isn't fun. I was wearing a French souvenir tshirt on a Southwest Airlines flight at the beginning of the current desert war. A stewardess said "Ewwwwww. You've been to Fra-ance?" I said that I had. She explained to me why she wouldn't go there. I asked her if she ever studied American history in any of her schooling. She said yes. I pointed out that Paul Revere was a descendant of French Huguenots with the original family name of "Revoire". She told the pilots I was "menacing" as I peacefully sat in my seat. I'd never even raised my voice, I'd only found it rude to be berated for choice of dress and past vacations. At least they didn't divert the plane and put me off in handcuffs. Perhaps the pilot knew her to be an idiot.

    Flying has not been the same since. I basically have to show up at the TSA kiosks stripped naked, to save time. Little girl ratted me out for knowing American History and pointing her out to be rude, in a very quiet town of voice, at that. TSA seems as dense as her and is likely populated by the same level of intelligence.

    Amtrak isn't too sucky if you get a sleeping compartment. They have three meals a day and proper toilet and showering facilities. I suppose they will eventually go Nazi, too.

  63. david Silver badge

    Or are foreign...

    Brother-in-law was strip searched while travelling with his wife and two young children. Malaysian passport and asian features.

  64. Joe Jim

    The "IT"- how to avoid rapacious airlines

    Mr Garrison or is it Mrs Garrison made a great invention ( the it ) to avoid the hassle of flying- and looked jolly pleasurable to ride. South Park episode 76 - I'm sure Mr Bush & his capitalist friends are keeping it to themselves.

  65. Fozzy
    Thumb Down

    Is it just me ....

    or is the land of the free starting to sound like Russia. The next thing you know will you have a very suspicious government looking person from the KGB.. I mean the FBI tailing you whereever you go within USA

    I wonder what the equivalent is to the siberian salt mines for when they start rounding up all the dissidents,.... oh yeah Guamato bay.

  66. john

    NASA needs to change search...

    NASA and other researchers are trying to find intelligent life on other planets but I have a better idea. Can they begin to search for intelligent life on Earth first?

  67. Chris G Silver badge

    Don't fly

    Until you want to commit an act of terrorism, that way you will probably be the only trusted passenger aboard and as a unique non-terrorist person invited into the cockpit where you can meet the pilot....

  68. Frank

    @Chris G re. Don't fly

    ".....invited into the cockpit where you can meet the pilot..."

    I was last invited onto the flight deck on a 757 in 1990 ( I was in possession of an appropriate aviation industry business card at the time and the co-pilot used to fly my company's products until he became a commercial shuttle jockey). I was strapped into the little seat at the back and stayed there for the landing at Edinburgh. It was a wonderful experience.

    Sadly, I understand that these little treats are no longer available for security reasons.

  69. Chris G Silver badge

    @ By Frank

    It's a shame Frank but so many of life's little pleasure are being eroded by the anti-terror nazis. Soon you will need authorisation to strap into the little seat in the toilet ( on a plane).

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure I understand

    "Hawley phoned the paper back shortly afterwards and said the agency would not retain details, if subjects could convince screeners of their actual ID"

    Case 1

    Poor bastard: Sorry I forgot my ID

    TSArse: I'm not convinced, we will retain your details.

    Case 2

    PB: Sorry I forgot my ID

    TSA: I'm not convinced, we will retain your details.

    PB: No really, honest, ask my mate here, come on, it's me, yes?

    TSA: OK, I'm convinced, off you go.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amnesia already illegal in UK

    Why is this all so shocking? Surely RIPA III means that if you forget your password you spend I forgot how many years minimum (3?) in jail.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .. like a breathalizer test!

    Refuse and you're automatically guilty!!

    I love the way we force people to do things, or don't allow them to do it at all in this country.

    PS: Except drunk driving, i'm cool with them 'banning' that ;-)

    I specifically like their words over this new bio passport. "You don't NEED to get one of these new passports, however if you don't you will not be able to travel"

    Like the websites who so helpfully explain "We use cookies on this site, you may refuse to accept them, however you will not be able to use our website, sucker."

  73. Anonymous Coward

    I was having a conversation

    with my brother the other day about this sort of nonsense, he mentioned the fact that the govt is *NOT* security minded at all. You have shares, ATM, chip & pin, credit cards, passports, phishing, phreaking etc, etc. His suggestion is indeed correct, so I responded by saying "That's why they're cracking down on everything/one... as they aren't security minded in any way shape or form, they have to appear to be doing something, so, very it's very simple... everyone is a terrorist/criminal/thieving scumbag...". It's easy to fling 'em in jail too. Problem is, though, if you're innocent....

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