NEW YORK—NY Sen. Charles Schumer revealed a loophole in the U.S. airport security system that would easily allow terrorists on the no-fly list to board a plane with a stolen credit card at a press conference held at his Manhattan office on Sunday, Jan. 17.
If a terrorist obtains someone else’s credit card, they could then follow instructions to doctor a boarding pass, which are easily accessible on the Internet. He could then show the fake boarding pass with his own name instead of the cardholder’s, along with his own ID to pass through security, where the boarding pass is not scanned into the system. Then at the gate, where he is not asked to show his ID again, he can simply hand in the real boarding pass with the cardholder’s name and be let onto the plane. This technique was posted on a Web site and proven achievable by an Indiana University student in 2006 and noted in a 2007 report by Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
“It’s unbelievable that after years of recalibrating aviation and airport security so that we can keep a close eye on suspicious individuals, this enormous hole remains in the system. It has rendered the terrorist watch list nearly useless,” Schumer said.
“The terrorists are always looking for our weakest link and we can’t leave any stone unturned.”
Schumer urged the TSA to take three simple measures to effectively close the loophole.
The first step Schumer proposed was to require an ID check at the gate. A second ID check at the gate when the boarding pass is scanned would prevent passengers using a fake boarding pass to get through security to board a plane.
This practice was used for two years after the 9/11 attacks, but then discontinued.
Schumer added that since passengers are asked to show their IDs going through security, it wouldn’t take up more time than it does now, and would make sense if they showed their identification at the gate.
“These steps don’t cost the passengers anything, and won’t slow the passengers down,” he said. “If you tighten up the loopholes, you would actually make travel faster for passengers.”
Schumer suggests the second measure should be for TSA to encrypt the barcodes on boarding passes, making them unable to be forged. The TSA launched a program for this in 2007, and Schumer urges them to begin testing these at airports this year.
The third step, Schumer says, is to increase penalties for tampering with travel documents, and introduced legislation to make altering and faking a boarding pass or other travel document in order to conceal the bearer’s identity a felony.