Show Your Papers, Your Gender, and Your Date of Birth to Fly

Last week final plans were announced for implementing ‘secure flight’ – the nomenclature for silly rules that all passengers will have to submit their gender and date of birth in order to obtain an boarding pass, starting in July of 2009. This applies to domestic US flights, flights departing or arriving the U.S., and flights overflying the U.S.

Terrorists could easily find out if they’re on the list, simply with a dry run — that is, buying a ticketing for a flight they don’t intend to bomb to see if they have any problems getting their boarding pass.

If they do face hassles, they could either turn the job over to someone else in their group or use fake documents (whether a fake boarding pass with their own name that matches ID or a fake ID to match the name of someone not on the list).

It’s nearly inconveivable that there’s a single terrorist competent enough to cause risk of harm that is not also competent enough to get through the TSA’s “security theatre” checkpoints.

ID requirements are a joke, sadly they simultaneously cost billions (for the new system, and also for the manpower required to perform the checks, not to mention the opportunity cost of lost time) and erode our freedoms by imposing requirements for the exercise of basic rights like moving around unhampered by the government. Some find the cost wasteful, I’m far more overwhelmed by the societal shift towards requiring government’s permission to travel inside the borders of the United States.

Rather than a classic ‘security vs. liberty’ tradeoff, this is a case of no security benefit whatsoever and a reduction of liberty.

Advocates for the plan say it will reduce hassles for ‘false positives’, people with similar name matches to the no-fly list (a list which the TSA now says contains fewer than 2500 names, and fewer than 250 Americans, as well as fewer than 16,000 ‘selectees’ ordered to undergo additional security procedures). So they propose to spend billions impinging on everyone’s liberties to reduce the hassle for a handful of people. But since the no fly list can not possibly impede terrorists (except, possibly, Ted Kennedy) there are certainly far better ways to improve the travel experience and protect the rights of currently-effected travelers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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