Sunday, May 17, 2009

Your Papers, Please ...

In case you haven't heard, the still-leaderless Transportation Security Administration sprung into place on Friday the initial phase of a requirement that the name on your airline boarding pass will need to exactly match the name on the government-issued I.D. you present at the checkpoint.

Exactly as in e-x-a-c-t-l-y.

Right now, the TSA is merely requesting that you do this, to help get the ball rolling on the new Secure Flight program, which is an initiative to try to straighten out the mess created by airline mis-administration of the terrorist watch lists at checkpoints. If your documents have only small differences, like a missing middle initial on one, you won't be keelhauled ... for now.

The requirement will be key to the smooth operation of the Secure Flight program now being phased in by the airlines and the TSA.

My head hurts every time I try to explain Secure Flight and the terrorist watch lists.

If you want your head to hurt, too, please see my May 7 post "Terror Watch List: Free Jack Anderson! All of Them!" for a detailed backgrounder on the whole mess of watch-list enforcement and chronic problem of innocent travelers being constantly detained for extra questioning because they have names that may be the same as or similar to, or a variant of, names on the actual, secret terrorist lists. Even if those names on the actual lists are clearly not of terrorists, but of persons who seem to be there because a long time ago those persons frightened Richard Milhouse Nixon or the easily alarmed J. Edgar Hoover.

Don't get me started.

Basically, under Secure Flight, the boarding pass and I.D. will have to match precisely once this becomes Official. For example, both must say Richard Milhouse Nixon (not "Dick" Nixon on one) or "J. Edgar Hoover" (not "Jane" or "John" Edgar Hoover.)

Anyway, here is the T.S.A. announcement:

"WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that beginning May 15 the Secure Flight passenger vetting program will begin asking passengers to enter their full name – as it appears on the government issued identification they will be traveling with – when making airline reservations.

This is the first publicly noticeable step in implementing the multi-phase Secure Flight program which shifts pre-departure watch list matching responsibilities from individual aircraft operators to TSA. The Secure Flight program satisfies a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, and congressional requirements from the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the 9/11 Commission Act signed into law in 2007.

'By enhancing and streamlining the watch list matching process, the Secure Flight program makes travel safer and easier for millions of Americans,' said TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides. 'During this phase of the Secure Flight program, passengers are encouraged to book their reservations using their name as it appears on the government-issued ID they will use while traveling.'

In the near future, small differences between the passenger's ID and the passenger's reservation information, such as the use of a middle initial instead of a full middle name or no middle name/initial at all, will not be an issue for passengers. Over time, passengers should strive to obtain consistency between the name on their government issued ID and the travel information they use for booking flights.

The second phase of Secure Flight begins August 15, 2009 when passengers will be required to enter their date of birth and gender when booking airline flights.

Once Secure Flight's advanced technology is fully implemented in early 2010, enhanced watch list matching will be done by the government. Airlines will gather a passenger's full name, date of birth, and gender when making an airline reservation to determine if the passenger is a match to the No Fly or Selectee lists. By providing the additional data elements of gender and date of birth, Secure Flight will more effectively help prevent misidentification of passengers who have similar names to individuals on the watch list and better identify individuals that may pose a known or suspected threat to aviation.

TSA's goal is to vet 100 percent of passengers on all domestic commercial flights by early 2010 and 100 percent of passengers on all international commercial flights by the end of 2010."


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