TSA adds 16,500 people to terror watchlist for forgetting ID, then reconsiders

The TSA maintains a list of "suspicious" fliers who do things like forget to take their sewing scissors out of their knitting bags before boarding a flight. To this list, they have added 16,500 fliers who forgot to bring ID to the airport, though they say that forgetting your ID will no longer brand you forever as a potential terrorist. Forgetting your sewing scissors will still go down on your permanent record, though.
The TSA began storing the information in late June, tracking many people who said they had forgotten their driver's license or passport at home. The database has 16,500 records of such people and is open to law enforcement agencies, according to the TSA.

Asked about the program, TSA chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY in an interview Tuesday that the information helps track potential terrorists who may be "probing the system" by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.

Later Tuesday, Hawley called the newspaper to say the agency is changing its policy effective today and will stop keeping records of people who don't have ID if a screener can determine their identity. Hawley said he had been considering the change for a month. The names of people who did not have identification will soon be expunged, he said.

Fliers without ID placed on TSA list (Thanks, Loren!)


  1. So if these people have no I.D., what name did the TSA put on the list? Whatever the person said their name was? Or was the list populated with sixteen thousand John Does? Either way, its a real effective list they’ve got themselves.

  2. Does anyone believe they’re really expunging those names? Or maybe they’ll just move the names to the “TSA list of suspicious people whose names were expunged from other lists”.

  3. Someone with the same name as me is on the watchlist, so I get stopped at the airport every time, and Southwest won’t let me do online check-in; meaning I’m stuck with the last boarding party.

  4. Here’s the big flaw in logic: The “no fly list” stops individual troublemakers. And that’s assuming it worked in a perfect world where there are no such things as fake IDs. However, if there is mischief to be had, it would be done as part of a large, organized team. If it is determined that some members of the team are on the list, no problem. They’ll work the operations from the outside while the rest of the team waltzes through the checkpoint.

  5. Showing IDs became a staple of air travel when airlines wanted to protect their revenue. And what a scam that was … you can give a friend an unused ticket to a show or sporting event, but apparently letting someone else use your airline ticket (even though the airlines received money for it) is just too infuriating to the industry. Thus, they checked IDs to make sure the ticket purchaser was the ticket user.

    At no point in the pre-TSA era were IDs checked as a form of security. That’s because an ID check is not security. Only an incompetent agency like the TSA would confuse the two.

  6. ALDEN@6: Same guy who is about to mail a few pounds of marijuana to his Crawford Ranch methinks…

    Pretty soon it’s gong to be: “Are you now or have you ever been a sewing scissor forgetful courier?” When do we get to start wearing patches on our arms to identify us? It least we’ll be able to sew them on, ourselves…

  7. Wait a minute–can we go back to the sewing scissors question? Does this mean that, back in June, when I almost missed my flight because the Newark AirTrain was held up for half an hour due to someone leaving a bag on a car, and I had to carry-on my bag because I didn’t have time to check it, and all my toiletries were confiscated because they were full-sized (I was going to CHECK them!!), I got added to the TSA watch list?

    Or, in other words, because of a TSA-caused delay I was forced to break TSA rules and thus may have been added to the TSA watch list?

    I’m not even sure my brain can process this…

  8. Its been a while but did the 9/11 terrorists make any mistakes checking in?
    Don’t you think a terrorist would be smart enough to remember his idea and to take the knitting nail files out of his overnight bag?
    Perhaps TSA should add everyone who has passed through the system without causing a ripple, thats suspicious behaviour right there.

    But seriously folks, your political masters are making all Americans look like back water yokels.
    It makes me wonder if the prequisite for the bureaucracy is to have a IQ of less than 50 and not a single ounce of common sense.

  9. Wow- so that’s why they took my ID and spent all that time filling out paperwork when I forgot about a Leatherman in the bottom of my laptop bag…

    I guess I need to get to the airport THREE hours early from now on. :(

  10. that the information helps track potential terrorists who may be “probing the system” by trying to get though checkpoints at various airports.

    Nice work Kip, we see you’ve managed to narrow that list down to mere 17,000 people.

  11. “… will stop keeping records of people who don’t have ID if a screener can determine their identity.”

    Whahuh? So we’re only going to add your name to the possible terrorist list when we aren’t sure it’s really your name?

  12. how many here have written to their political representative to complain? Think you’re on the list?

  13. Where are all the good cracker/hacker revolutionaries when you need them? Won’t someone get into that system and make sure that list is forever useless? And don’t try to delete anything, just add data generated from the white pages across the United States. Put so many names on the list that the list crashes in on itself. Just a thought.

  14. “The TSA maintains a list of “suspicious” fliers who do things like forget to take their sewing scissors out of their knitting bags before boarding a flight.”

    Are you kidding me? Is there an easy way to check if you’re on the watch list? My last flight was on the way home from LA about a month ago, and I forgot I had my Swiss Army card in my wallet (on the way out, I put it in my checked luggage).

    It was pointed out to me during the x-ray, and the guard wanted to take it. I asked if I could keep everything except what was banned (an inch-long letter opener), and he said yes (so my miniature scissors, nail file, pen, tweezers, everything else, was fine). Does that now mean I’m on this list? Because I’d like to know in advance before I attempt to fly again.

  15. …the agency is changing its policy effective today and will stop keeping records of people who don’t have ID if a screener can determine their identity.

    but… how does the screener determine that… if you don’t have your ID?

    And if they can do that, then why do we need an ID in the first place?

  16. How can a TSA screener truly determine who you are evn if you do have ID? fake id, folks. They’ve existed for a long freaking time.

    This is why catching terrorists really shouldn’t be on the TSA’s job list. If the terrorist has gotten as far as the airport then it’s probably too late to stop any serious threat.

  17. Bah. This list is probably just about as apolitical as the Bush Admin’s Justice Dept. hiring policies.

  18. never mind Kip. An exercise for one and all: Look at the image. LOOK. This is the man really driving. LOOK into his eyes. Process this input against all your experience.

    Tak, you’re amazing. You really know what you’re talking about. How’d you get so wise?

    Anyway, for added effect, when looking at the Chertoff picture, cover his mouth with your hand so you can focus on just what the eyes are saying, without a fake smile adding noise to the signal.

  19. Takuan said “how many here have written to their political representative to complain? Think you’re on the list?

    I sent Orrin Hatch an e-mail saying I objected to warrantless wiretapping and telecom immunity. I also said I like the 4th amendment.Then he sent me a form letter giving lame orwellian reasons why he voted for it. So, do you suppose that earned me a spot on the list?

  20. The scissors thing, people use that as a lead line but it’s baloney. I take scissors on planes every time I fly, because I knit on the plane. I’ve never had them question the scissors. Or the knitting needles, for that matter!

    They did mistake my earrings (which I had tucked into my carry-on) for hypodermic needles once, which I only figured out when they asked me a few questions about whether I was a diabetic or took other injected drugs.

  21. Several people asked if by virtue of having something taken they are on the list. My guess is, no – not unless they asked you for your name.

    A while back I grabbed a big tube of toothpaste without thinking of it when packing, and it got taken. But what struck me as ridiculous is that they didn’t ask for my name, they didn’t check the tube. Instead they just took it and tossed it in a garbage can.

    So imagine that tube was packed with something “bad”. Hours (days?) later, someone does a sniffer run on the garbage and goes, “Oh crap! There was a block of C4 in there!” Ask yourself how they are ever going to figure out which passenger it was that had it beyond trying to lift fingerprints etc.

    So basically, I’m not worried at all about having my name on some list because I had a tube of toothpaste confiscated. The only time they probably bother asking questions (and taking names) is when you do something really blatant like bring along a big knife or something that clearly could actually be a threat.

  22. i’m going to japan next year and i’m too afraid to bring my knitting needles or my crochet hook! we’ve had large discussions on ravelry.com about our needlework supplies being taken away as well.

  23. If you’ve ever commented on a TSA-related post on BB, you’re on a list somewhere.

    Worry that you’re NOT on a list.

    1. I would imagine that the worst thing that you could possibly do would be to try to find out if you were on the list. That’s like calling the Police Department to ask if what you’re doing is illegal or not.

  24. Antinous, I used to call the Dept of ATF (They had a billboard on campus (Gangs? Guns? Drugs? Call 1-800-ATF-NARC (or something like that)) and I’d ask them if anyone had reported drugs near my location.

    Granted, I did that from public phones.

  25. Let’s fight the system by making sure that we ALL end up on the no-fly list. TRY to get on the list. If 25% or more of all passengers require expensive special processing, the system will take so long and cost so much that even hard-core control freaks will be forced to admit that it doesn’t work.

    So, what’s the best way to get on the no-fly list? A way that won’t end with security guards aiming guns, detention, and lawsuits?

  26. Why not just put every known human on the planet earth on the list and be done with it. Then we will all be back on an even footing. The list is already to ponderous and frivolous to be useful.

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