Feb 20 2009

“Homeland Security USA” shows how to travel without ID

The new “reality” television show Homeland Security USA has prompted a Facebook group calling for it to be taken off the air, and protests against its bigotry outside the ABC-TV / Walt Disney Corp. offices in Burbank, even while ratings and viewership have been falling steadily since the first episode.

This week, though, the show gave us a useful lesson: how to fly (within the U.S.) without showing ID.

You can watch Benjamin fly without showing ID in the first half of Episode 5 here on the ABC.com website. (The player won’t work unless it thinks you are running Windows XP or Vista, but it’s possible — sometimes — to get it to work in Linux by using the Windows version of Firefox in the “wine” environment.)

Since the TSA staff probably won’t let you bring along a film crew to keep them on their best behavior, you are likely to get even more verbal ridicule, and an even more thorough “secondary screening”, than Benjamin gets in the TV show when he exercises his right to travel without showing ID.  In particular, you are likely to be questioned by a TSA SPOT team.  We aren’t aware of any legal challenges yet to the SPOT program, or any court decision on whether you are required to answer TSA questions or merely to submit to a search. But we suspect that your lawyer would advise you not to answer questions from police without a chance to consult your lawyer first.

As part of the “secondary screening”, the TSA agents are shown searching Benjamin’s wallet for his ID, thus making clear that (1) the search of his belongings is not limited to a search for weapons or hazardous materials, and (2) the demand for “ID” is a search for physical evidence (credentials), not just a request for information (e.g. verbal self-identification).

But the important message is that Benjamin is able to fly, as long as he is willing to “submit” to secondary screening of his person and carry-on belongings, just as you should be.   Travel on a common carrier is, by law, a right, not a privilege, as long as you pay the fare and comply with the law and the terms of the airline’s tariff. No publicly-disclosed law or regulation requires you to show ID to fly on a domestic U.S. flight (nor would the Constitution permit such a law).

The TV producers try to undercut the message of Benjamin’s ability to travel without showing ID by adding a voiceover directed at anyone who might be “tempted to try this at home”, claiming that the TSA has changed its procedures so that people who won’t show ID might not be “permitted” to fly.  The TSA did make an announcement last summer that it would require travelers who don’t show ID to complete an “ID verification” form and be “cooperative”. But the TSA has promulgated no rules requireing ID, has no authority to legislate by press release, and hasn’t complied with even the procedural rules (much less the Constitutional standards) applicable to its requests or demands for boarding passes, ID credentials, or completion of the ID verification form.

So please, do try this on your next trip, and let us know in the comments (or by contacting us privately) how it goes.

6 thoughts on ““Homeland Security USA” shows how to travel without ID

  1. You can probably just use the User Agent Switcher extension for FF in any environment to report Windows XP and get by it that way.

  2. I can verify that this story as told is true. I have flown several times since 9-11-2001 without a “government issued ID.” However, I have corrected my political status. Most people born within the geographical boundries of on of the fifty states called the “United States of America” refer to themselves as United States citizens. If this is done then that person is presumed to be a citizen of the “United States” which is different than the “United States of America.” I have corrected my status to that of an Arizona national, which removes me from the purview of any “United States” statute. However, this matters little to the NAZI style workers at the TSA for they have not a clue what the law is or what it requires. They only Follow Orders.

    I might add that I actually do have an ID. I contracted to have it made and it is very professional looking. It is a Certificate of Identification and identifies me as a national of the country of Arizona. Yes, Arizona is a country just as all the other fifty states are.

    When traveling the last two times at the end of 2008 I did complete the ID verification form for the TSA at Phoenix, Arizona, and Akron/Canton, Ohio, but the information on that form is exactly the same information on my ID. Do you find that strange?

    If anyone from this web site would like to contact my in this regard it can be done at the email address I entered to submit this comment. Just put Arizona national on the subject line so I will not delete it thinking it is SPAM.


    Monroe Maxhimer, Arizona national

  3. i suppose in europe this is different…..as it’s country to country but what about within the EU?

    i live in switzerland and what i find really bizarre, coming from living in washington DC, is the fact that purchasing train tickets and getting on the trains and going to and fro are so easy compared to amtrak.

    there one has to show ID to get a ticket at the counter, has to produce or have in hand ID to get to the gate where the trains are and sometimes even having to show ID on the train if asked.

    someone just clued me into this site/blog

    i am rather enjoying it!
    i was asked for my ‘papers’ yesterday so it’s appropriate!

  4. I tried to fly interisland and was not able to do so because my DL id was invalid… I was told I needed a valid form of ID, So I couldnt travel. I later looked into it via GOOGLE and found alot of people who had the same problem as I so I challenged the TSA again and showed them my expired DL they said they couldnt accept it I explained to them that is my only form of ID I also showed them a letter from the DMV that wasn’t acceptable I then showed them a letter from TSA showing that i didnt need a Valid ID but the My DL was good enough to prove who i was , I was screened like I was a criminal and was granted to go to my destination… So getting your facts in order and having everything ready before going to the airport was a plus for me

  5. dhs is a joke the people that work there are the biggest joke. they need to restart dhs again from the start and teach there workers how respect people

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