TSA releases (censored) ID checking procedures

In response to a request by the Identity Project under the Freedom of Information Act, the TSA has for the first time given us a (redacted) version of the section on Travel Document and ID Checks from the TSA’s “Screening Management SOP” (Standard Operating Procedures) manual.  Our request was made June 21, 2008, the day the TSA announced what they claimed were changes to ID “requirements” for air travelers. It took the TSA almost seven months to respond.

The version of the SOP manual which the TSA has now made public is dated June 30, 2008, so it ought to reflect the changes announced in the TSA’s June 21, 2008 press release. But there is nothing at all in the sections of the manual the TSA has released about the new procedures and new ID verification form which the TSA had, in fact, started using.  Rather than requiring people who don’t have or don’t choose to show government-issued ID credentials to execute affidavits stating who they are under penalty of perjury, the TSA procedures manual requires that such people be allowed to proceed through secondary screening as “selectees”, and specifically directs screeners and other TSA staff not to make any attempt to detain or delay them.

The TSA procedures manual states that the “Travel Document Checker” (TDC) must “ask to see” each person’s travel document. (”Travel document” appears to be used to mean “ticket” or “confirmation”, contrary to the international industry-standard usage of “travel document” to mean “passport or other ID”.)

The key words used are  “ask” and “request”, not “demand”.  The procedures further state:

If the individual’s identification documents remain suspect, the STSO [Screening Officer] must notify an LEO [law enforcement officer] for resolution….

Screening of the individual may proceed while waiting for an LEO response. If an LEO fails to respond within established airport timeframes, the STSO must process the individual as a selectee.  If the individual clears selectee screening, do not attempt to detain or delay the individual from entering the sterile area for the purpose of obtaining LEO clearance….

Individuals who appear to be 18 years of age or older with a valid travel document, but without an ID, or in possession of an invalid ID, must be designated and screened as a selectee.

Any detention, search, or interrogation by a law enforcement officer, of course, would be subject to well-established legal standards for warrant, probable cause, or sufficent basis for suspicion.

The other key word in the phrase “ask to see” in the procedures is “see”, which would require only that you allow visual inspection of your documents. There’s nothing in the procedures requiring or authorizing the TDC to demand that you surrender possession or physical control of your documents, although in fact they often demand that you give them your documents and let go of them yourself.

Contrary to TSA claims to have firm legal authority for their ID checking and other screening practices, this section of the TSA SOP manual suggests that the TSA knows that their authority is limited, and in particular does not extend to detention, general-puprose search, confiscation of documents, or compelled responses to interrogatories.

These are “procedures”, mind you. Not policies. Not regulations. Not laws.  Congress has never debated or approved any of this, nor has any judge or jury. The excerpts from the TSA manual that we received gave little hint of how much “discretion” the TSA thinks it has, or gives its minions at individual airports or checkpoints, to use “nonstandard” procedures if they feel like it.

If you’re going to be trying to fly without showing ID credentials, or without ones that the TSA finds acceptable, you might want to carry a copy of this section of the procedures manual, to remind the TSA that they aren’t supposed to detain or delay you.  If you do, please let us know how it goes.

20 Responses to “TSA releases (censored) ID checking procedures”

  1. Phil M Says:

    Note that in order to test this, one need not try to fly, but only try to cross a TSA checkpoint at an airport. You can do this without paying for a flight by purchasing a refundable ticket, dealing with TSA at the airport, then canceling the ticket before boarding.

  2. RgnadKzin Says:

    Is there any thought to securing a copy of section 2.10 of the SOP? The portion of the SOP that you reference is inapplicable to those of us who do not carry identification in order to travel.

    The operative sections of the SOP you posted is 2A-2(C)(3): “Individuals who appear to be 18 years of age or older with a valid travel document [boarding pass], but without an ID, or in possession of an invalid ID, must be designated and screened as a selectee.”

    We then proceed to 2A-2(D) “Selectee Processing”, where the “HHMD TSO must follow standrd selectee screening procedures as provided for in Section 2.10 of the Screening Checkpoint SOP.”

    I for one would like to see whether this referenced document provides the authority for the Air Nazis to ask their 20 questions, rather than to look thru my carryon bags and my person for weapons or explosives.

  3. Edward Hasbrouck Says:

    This is all we received in answer to our request. Other portions were withheld as “Sensitive Security Information”.

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  6. Debbie Says:

    No photo ID? You must live in the stone age. You can’t drive or possibly purchase alcohol and cigarettes without one. How would you feel if a lost or stollen check of yours was cashed at your bank without a teller asking for a photo ID? Get Real, these requirements are in place to help protect you and I gratefully present my appropriate photo ID where ever it is required!

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  9. Shawn Says:

    Section 2A-2, paragraph C.1)i. states: “…An expired ID is not valid for the purposes of this check.”

    Okay, how about an expired driver’s license? It’s expired in terms of validity as a driver’s license but not as an ID. My Florida driver’s license does not say “Driver’s License and Identification Card”.

  10. John Says:

    Instead of trying to circumvent Security procedures, why not be an adult an comply! It isn’t asking much from the traveling public. These TSA workers hav a difficult job protecting us all. Stop your whining and realize the procedures are for our safety!

  11. bill Says:

    How about your safety anyone concerned about that. Instead of tearing everything apart remember no one is getting on a plane without being screened. You are on one hand worried about getting on flights with or without ids. Lets start to run security like other countries and see what the public thinks.when you are there they point a gun at you and tell you what you will do, no if and or but. Here we say please and thank you for being discourteous to us. We do bend over backwards and take insults and help people that have no idea what they are doing and hold up lines. Please take a look at yourselves and when you know what you are doing and do it than look at TSA.

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  13. Jesse Says:

    TSA is a complete joke! They have been very very rude and harassed me numerous times and abuse there power! I think it is good that people are checking TSA very closely now! They need to spend there time checking out real threats rather than harassing Americans that were born here. We need security that protects us from our enemies not harass us everytime we fly. Simple checks are one thing but don’t treat me like I am a bad guy.

  14. Ruf Says:

    All 19 al-Qaeda hijackers had valid ID’s and valid boarding passes but the TSA insists on harassing 83 year old women who have an expired drivers license.
    TSA is a bureaucratic joke that is bankrupting the airlines and pissing off the public.

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