Web Site Lets Anyone Create Fake Boarding Passes

While Nance agrees that there are significant problems in the airport screening process, and some policies he'd like to see changed, he says there's no need to assume that anyone could get any further with this ability than through security and he doesn't think that's a problem.

"You or I can very easily go to an airline ticket counter, buy a refundable ticket for a particular flight, go through security, and come right out and sell it back," Nance said.

He thinks the real problem, in part, is that we're too concerned with who can get into the airport terminal when it's the airplanes we should be more worried about.

"The issues that are raised by this spotlight an inefficiency in our thinking about who should have access to the interior of an airport," he said.

"Our biggest worry is not having them in the terminal -- anyone can get in the terminal and get into a big crowd of people and set off an explosive or something. Anyone can do that on either side of the security checkpoint."

Ironically, Soghoian agrees.

"If Osama bin Laden is sitting next to you on a plane, that shouldn't be a problem," he said. "It might make you uncomfortable. You might not like it, but what's really a problem is if there's a ticking bomb or a knife or something."

A History of Pushing the Boundaries

When you go to the airport these days, the TSA security agents manning the airport's security checkpoint check passengers' boarding passes and IDs to make sure the names on both match.

But if you've ever forgotten your ID when traveling, you know that you don't have to show ID to get through security or even to get on an airplane.

If you have a boarding pass but no identification, you're simply subject to a more extensive search by airport security.

"They just mark your boarding pass with a bunch of S's, which means you're a candidate for secondary screening," Soghoian said.

Soghoian tested that out during one trip by going to the airport and refusing to show ID.

"The poor security checkers at the gate -- you know making $8 an hour -- didn't know what to do," he said. "But the supervisor at the airline was really friendly and told me to just let them know the next time I was coming."

From there, he says, he was able to board the plane and make his trip.

That experience taught him that the ID check was basically useless and that the secondary screening designation had a pleasantly surprising side effect, he was taken to the front of the busy security line.

He says that after that, he started doing it as a matter of course when traveling, ensuring he wouldn't have to wait in the long, snaking line that preceded the security checkpoint.

The key problem as he sees it is that the TSA and the airlines are relying on each other to ensure our safety -- and neither are doing a very good job.

"The airline doesn't know who you are, and they're not checking IDs at the gates. They rely on the TSA for that," he said.

"The TSA's job is to make sure nothing gets past them like a bomb or a gun."

But after a recent report showed that security screeners at Newark International Airport in New Jersey had flunked 20 out of 22 tests to identify hidden bombs and guns, and with similar reports coming out all the time, it seems that system may not even work.

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