FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 2, 2006
In Light Of Student Website Manufacturing Fake Boarding Passes, Schumer Calls On Senate Leadership To Pass Legislation Criminalizing Using Fake Travel Docs
Senator Introduced False Travel Documents Prohibition Act In April, But Senate Hasn’t Acted
In light of new reports of a student-run website producing fake boarding passes, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to bring to the floor Schumer’s comprehensive legislation that would make it a federal crime, generally punishable by up to three years in prison, to alter or fake a boarding pass or other travel document in order to deceive the travel agencies into letting one on a plane or train. Schumer’s bill, False Travel Documents Prohibition Act of 2006 (S. 2631) was introduced in April and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“It is five years after 9/11, and we still have this enormous hole in airport security,” Schumer said. “The people out there determined to do us harm are not stupid, and this loophole is a glaring opportunity for them to exploit. In this post 9/11 era, the terrorists will find our weakest link and this one is in plain sight. We have spent millions of dollars investing in screening equipment and airport security, but right now anyone forging a boarding pass, including a terrorist, is treated like a 19 year old who makes a fake ID to buy a 6 pack of beer.”
Schumer has outlined the following scenario which could allow a potential terrorist to board a plane without being noticed by airport personnel or being flagged by the terrorist watch list. He outlined the following scenario:
1. Joe Terror (whose name is on the terrorist watch list) buys a ticket online in the name of Joe Thompson using a stolen credit card. Joe Thompson is not listed on the terrorist watch list.
2. Joe Terror then prints his “Joe Thompson” boarding pass at home, and then electronically alters it (either by scanning or altering the original image, depending on the airline system and the technology he uses at home) to create a second, almost identical boarding pass using his real name, Joe Terror.
3. Joe Terror then goes to the airport and goes through security with his real ID and the FAKE boarding pass. The name and face match his real driver’s license. The airport employee matches the ID with the name on the boarding pass and allows Joe Terror to continue through security.
4. The TSA guard at the magnetometer checks to make sure that the boarding pass looks legitimate as Joe Terror goes through. He/she also does not scan it into the system, so there is still no hint that the name on the fake boarding pass is not the same as the name on the reservation.
5. Joe Terror then goes through the gate into his plane using the real Joe Thompson boarding pass for the gate’s computer scanner. Airline personnel do not ask Joe Terror for an ID to match the name on the scanner, so the fact that he does not have an ID with that name does not matter. Since Joe Thompson is not on the no-fly list, Joe Terror boards the plane under a false name with no questions asked.
Schumer today renewed his calls for the TSA to detect and prevent the use of fake or altered boarding passes by requiring another identification check matched with the boarding pass at the gate to compare the name and bar code on the boarding pass, the passenger’s identification, and the No-Fly list maintained by TSA. This proposal would replicate the security precautions that were taken immediately after September 11th, but are no longer in place. Anybody trying to board a flight would present their boarding pass and identification together two times, once upon going through the security line (when no comparison to the TSA list is done) and then again when the boarding pass is scanned prior to boarding the plane, thereby foiling the “Joe Terror” scenario outlined above.