Skip to comments.How I Got Through Airport Security with No I.D.
Posted on 02/23/2013 7:37:06 PM PST by null and void
Thanks to Google Earth and puzzling new TSA rules, all you need to know to get on a plane these days is the color of your house. Traveling for the holidays? No need to fear missing your plane because youve lost your government issued I.D.! You can fly without itas long as you know the color of your house.
A few weeks ago I lost my wallet, or maybe it was stolen. But I had to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and I didnt have a single piece of identificationno passport, drivers license, credit card, work I.D., nothing.
When I got to LAX, I approached the uniformed Transportation Security Administration agent nearest the entrance to the security screening area. She had the power to ruin my day, and we both knew it. But I was sweet, and she was only slightly superior in return.
I was really happy to get on that plane that day. But I wasnt thrilled to learn that instant access to satellite images is a government tool of airport identification.
Do you have anything? she asked. A library card? A bill addressed to you at your home?
I shook my head from side to side, pitifully.
The agent summoned the supervisor. He carried a clipboard and something that looked like a cross between a World War II-era walkie-talkie and a 1990s cellphone.
Please write your name and address on this form, he said. Then I have to make a call. The gentleman I call will ask you a series of questions to help us verify your identify.
I filled out the form super-neatly, so I wouldnt seem like a nervous terrorist, and the supervisor placed a call on his phone-a-ma-jig to an intentionally unidentified person who I came to think of as the Voice.
The Voice spoke to me directly. Have you ever lived in the Washington, D.C., area? the Voice inquired. Yes, a number of years ago, I said. Do you now live in a gated community? asked the Voice. My neighborhood isnt technically gated, but theres only one road in and out, so I answered, Yes. That was the right answer.
The final question from the Voice, the one that got me through the backscatter machine, past the shoe swipe-o-meter and onto the plane, was a stunning surprise: What color is your house?
Green, I told the Voice, who then asked me to hand the phone back to the supervisor. The supervisor and the Voice then began chatting about how nice my house was.
By chance, when I got back home, I had an email waiting for me from Mr. Peter E. Sand, director of privacy technology at the US Department of Homeland Security in Washington. He was inquiring about a book Id written. I quickly emailed him back about my experience at LAX. How did they know the color of my house? Why did they ask me that? Sand volunteered to put my questions to someone who might know the answer.
The idea that an airport official can tell me the color of my house as a favor to me when I lose my wallet is a bit disconcerting. I was really happy to get on that plane that day. But I wasnt thrilled to learn that instant access to satellite images is a government tool of airport identification. It feels invasive. And does knowing the color of my house really prove that I am me, anyway?
I could almost accept government use of invasive-feeling technologies if such technology were used consistently, by all levels of government, without infringing on civil liberties. But although the government sometimes makes scarily efficient use of technology, it sometimes does the opposite by failing to make use of technology, with terrible consequences for personal freedom.
Here is a case in point. Last month, my nephews house was robbed. (He lives in Atlanta and I think his house is yellow.) The thief stole electronic toys, computers, and televisions. My frantic nephew called the police to report the crime. When they arrived, they asked my nephew his name, and of course he told them. They placed him under arrest.
The police claimed my nephew was wanted in Tennessee for drug offenses. My nephew has a fairly common name, and when they heard it, the police arrested him and dragged him to jail, leaving his wife and four children behind in a state of shocked disbelief.
One would have thought that big-city police would have electronic access to arrest records, photographs, fingerprints, and other information. They should be able to clear up a case of mistaken identity speedily. But my nephew sat in the Fulton County jail for two days. It took two whole days for a judge to order him set free.
Get the irony? It took two minutes for TSA to determine to its satisfaction that I was the lady who lived in the green house in Pennsylvania. But it took two days for a big-city police department to determine that a man, a crime victim, found inside his own family home was in fact who he said he was, and not some guy with a similar name from Ohio wanted for selling dope in Tennessee.
Proof again that technology is only as good as the people who use itor refuse to use it.
I guess I'd be hosed if I lived in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass.
It's the Floyd Ferris thing from Atlas Shrugged. They don't make laws because they want you to follow them. They make laws so that you break them, and then they have grounds to control you. They just don't do it in a mean way 100% of the time. Yet.
What would you do wifout me, hmmmmm???????????????
I’ve been to Holland, Germany, Belgium, France more than a few times, but have never used a passport, or even owned one before or during those travels.
Nailed it. I may steal that entire post are re-post it some day, several some days.
I hope to never have to find out.
Don’t blame the government, blame Google Street View.
LOL, yes, but it really stumps a lot of people.
The article is kind of batty.
Anyone can determine the color of any house they have an address for using itouchmap.com.
You can also get the geodetic coordinates of the center of the lot there. If you wish to know the NAVD88 elevation, just click on the “terrain” button.
Yep. You weren’t expecting them to let actual security interfere with the TSA Kabuki theater were you?
“How did they know the color of my house?”
Google Maps Street View. Got address? house color in about 10 seconds.
Hope springs eternal.
A few years ago, NJ didn’t have picture ID on the driver’s licenses. It was just a card with the usual info on it, but no pic. I was in Denver visiting my daughter and was in a supermarket. I tried to use a traveler’s check to pay for the purchase. Fine. But when they asked for my ID and saw no picture, they wouldn’t cash it.
I spoke to the manager who asked me if I had any other form of ID on me. Then it dawned on me!! I had recently been in China for 6 weeks — studying the language and had to have a special ID while there.And it had my picture on it -— however everything on the card was in Chinese! I explained it to the manager and she looked at it and at me and laughingly said OK! LOL!
Off-white house. 2 stories. Circular driveway. Red SUV.
Took a few minutes with only her name.
Using only my smartphone.
With all of the security and screening there is no reason they should even need to know our names. The only reason for the ID must be to track where we go.
I hope the nephew sued the Atlanta police for false arrest and imprisonment.