web Musings of The Global Traveller

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

USA requires DOB & gender before you can fly

I wasn't intending to blog on this topic for a while longer, but a Travel Rants post by Kayt Sukel has encouraged me to write about it sooner.

In brief, the changes to Secure Flight (aka no fly list) are:

  • TSA requires date of birth and gender data (in addition to name, payment info, etc) for USA domestic flights as well as international flights to/from USA also.
  • Airlines send all the info to TSA before they can issue a boarding pass (even for online check in).
  • Passengers who do not match someone on the no fly list are permitted to obtain a boarding pass. Those who do "match" cannot check in.
In theory, the modified system should reduce the numbers of no fly false positives from many millions a year to a smaller (but still potentially very large) number.

In practice, the whole thing is a waste of time & money. In a previous post I explained why a no fly list is a nonsense as a security measure. Those reasons are still valid today - all that is changing is how it is being applied.

The changes do nothing for security. A terrorist who makes up a name or steals one from someone can just as easily take the date of birth too. By tweaking the process instead of making real improvements the no fly list is further entrenched in USA air travel.

It reminds me of when the liquids rules first came out. We were told it was better to be allowed to carry a small amount of liquids than not being allowed any liquids at all. Bah! Once the rule is in place it is near impossible to remove.

It is no secret that I am avoiding travel to/through USA (where it is practical to do so), mostly because of the security hassles and inconveniences. For the last few years I was averaging a trip to USA every month or so, but during 2009 I will have just a single 2 hour transit.

I wish Obama did pick Bruce Schneier for TSA director.

How long before we all have to supply DNA samples just to travel?

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