Posts in the category "Security":

REAL ID act may cause issues for air travelers



What’s in your wallet?

If you plan on traveling any time next year, the question is a pertinent one. Travelers with driver’s licenses from New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Louisiana, American Samoa or another state or territory the Department of Homeland Security deems not-compliant with the federal REAL ID act may soon be barred from using theirs as legal identification at the airport.

Up in the air, however, is whether “soon” means early or late 2016 — or a year or more.

DHS has already completed three separate phases of its REAL ID enforcement plan, which covers access to nuclear plants and a wide array of federally protected facilities. However, the next phase adds commercial aircraft to the agency’s access list, and will take place sometime after the turn of the calendar year.

The exact rollout date will be announced soon, said DHS spokeswoman Amanda DeGroff adding that the agency will “ensure that the traveling public has ample notice before any changes are made that could possibly affect their travel planning.”

Until then, DeGroff said the Transportation Security Administration will continue to accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from all states.

This means some travelers may be in for an unpleasant surprise at airports  next year.

While almost two dozen states issue driver’s licenses that are compliant with the law, numerous others have raised privacy and cost concerns. They, along with some independent advocacy groups, actively oppose the measure.

Some states, like Oklahoma, have laws on their books that explicitly prohibit complying with REAL ID; meanwhile, about two dozen non-complaint states have been granted extensions.

Turned away?

It’s unlikely the rule will take effect January 1, given the hurdles to compliance and the broad opposition.

“We expect that New Yorkers with standard-issue licenses will have more than a year notice before any change is implemented,” said Casey McNulty, a spokesman for the Empire State’s Department of Motor Vehicles. “New York has also applied for an extension to the law.”

When the final phase does ultimately take effect, travelers age 18 and over from states that remain non-compliant will need to a secondary or alternate form of identification. These include a U.S. passport or passport card, or one of the documents TSA’s authorized ID list, to pass through airport security checkpoints.

Travelers who do a little planning shouldn’t have a problem getting on their planes, but “rushes on passports will likely result in delays in getting applications processed,” noted Andrew Meehan, policy director of advocacy group Keeping Identities Safe and a Real ID supporter.

Still, “airports in noncompliant states will likely see long lines as travelers unaware of the changes will be turned away.”

(My story about the potential issues for air travelers due to the Real ID act first appeared on CNBC)

What will the new TSA chief change at airports?


What is the new head of the Transportation Security Administration going to do now that he’s been on the job for four weeks?

Withing 60 days he’s going to make sure all airport screeners are retrained so they can better detect explosives and spot weapons. And he’s going to try to get more passengers to enroll in the agency’s expedited security checkpoint program, called pre-check.

He’d also like to get rid of boarding passes and someday replace them with biometric technology.

Peter Neffenger, the new TSA administrator, went before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday and said it was a “huge concern” that the agency’s officers failed to identify bombs, weapons and other security threats 96 percent of the time during recent undercover testing.

“It greatly disturbs me to know that we had that failure rate at the checkpoint,” he said, and to fix that, the agency will “train out those failures.”

Neffenger also told the panel he wants to increase the use of explosive-detection dogs for passenger screening, expand enrollments in the Pre-check program and phase out “managed inclusion.”

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSA

Neffenger said that likes the idea that biometrics – individual characteristics such as fingerprints or facial characteristics for personal identification – might someday mean that “you are your boarding pass.”

Pot smuggling ring foiled at OAK Airport

Just say no

Three baggage handlers working for Southwest Airlines were among more than a dozen people arrested in what federal authorities allege was a long-running marijuana shipping operation that took advantage of the special security access bag handlers enjoy at California’s Oakland International Airport.

The baggage handlers allegedly used their ability to avoid security checkpoints to gain access to passenger terminals beyond the checkpoint. They’d then hand off bags of drugs to people who had cleared security and would then take the package onto a plane headed for another city, where the drugs would be sold.

Some packages of pot were smuggled as cargo, the Contra Costra Times reports, and at least one of the co-conspirators is said to have posted photos of large bundles of cash and marijuana on Instagram.

In a statement released yesterday, Oakland International Airport officials said they had been working closely with law enforcement from the outset of this investigation “to root out, stop, and prevent criminal activity and we’re pleased to see the investigation concluding and the people involved held accountable.”

Southwest airline issued a statement saying it too is fully cooperating with authorities.

Relaxing checkpoint at Oakland Int’l Airport

OAK Springhill

Travelers heading home through Oakland International Airport at the end of this holiday weekend will no doubt be thankful for two new on-site amenities.

In addition to the one-month old “BART to OAK” people mover train service running between Oakland International Airport and the BART Coliseum station, OAK is sporting a new SpringHill Suites “Experience Zone” security checkpoint area in Terminal Two (home of Southwest Airlines).

OAK is the fourth airport to get one of these reworked checkpoints, which offers modern furniture, wall art, calming lighting, soothing music and 15-foot-wide video projection screen. There are also screens showing the current wait times and a post-screening “recompose” area.

Heading to the airport? Where’s your gun?


The numbers seem a bit boggling: despite the fact that firearms, ammunition, firearm parts, and realistic replicas of firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage, an increasing number of passengers continue to show up at airport checkpoints with these items.

In fact, according to the Transportation Security Administration, at the end of the day on November 4, 1,855 firearms had been found at airport checkpoints. 1,471 (79 percent) were loaded.

That number exceeded the 2013 total – 1,813 – by 42. And it’s just November.

Here are the airports where the most firearms have been found in carry-on bags: Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) – 104 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) – 90 Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) – 66 Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) – 62 Denver International (DEN) – 61 .

Of course, this hasn’t stopped people from bringing guns to the airport in their carry-on bags…


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