The TSA has been saying that starting October 1, 2020 they are only going to accept IDs at security checkpoints that are compliant with a 2005 law that’s been getting kicked down the road for years. There are still a few states that aren’t issuing these IDs, and many people in states that are haven’t replaced their drivers licenses with new ones.
The prospect of turning away passengers from flying en masse never seemed plausible one month before the Presidential election. The October 1, 2020 deadline, which has been pushed off for years, inevitably will be pushed off again. Indeed, TSA is already saying they will accept drivers licenses that expired March 1, 2020 and later because of inadvisability or inability to renew.
With coronavirus we know what excuse the Department of Homeland Security is likely to use. They’ll understand that people may have difficulty in getting new ID documents in light of the disruption of the virus, and will push it off yet again – to some time after the election.
Delaying REAL ID Is The Norm Not The Exception
There was media hysteria five years ago when TSA was telling people that their drivers licenses wouldn’t be good at airport security if they lived in one of several states. At the time I said it was bunk, and indeed that’s exactly what it turned out to be.
TSA raised the alarms several times after that. For instance media started taking TSA claims that people wouldn’t be allowed to fly in January 2018.
The TSA has once again been warning passengers that their drivers licenses may not be accepted at security checkpoints starting in October 1, 2020. It’s being covered broadly, and usually without any skepticism.
- An inability to get a compliant ID only affects residents of a handful of states and territories
- There will likely be another extension. So even if you don’t get one in a compliant state or territory you’re likely fine.
- You can fly without a drivers license in any case.
What IDs are Required ‘By October 2020’ And Why?
Why does TSA say that ‘Real ID compliant IDs’ will be required by October 2020?
- The ‘Real ID’ act sets out conditions for what IDs will be accepted at federal facilities. Since the TSA is a federal agency, that means airport security too.
- No state is actually fully compliant with all of the requirements of the act. Some have been deemed compliant by the Department of Homeland Security. Others have been granted extensions.
- TSA keeps announcing that residents of states that have neither will not be able to use their drivers licenses at airport security come the next arbitrary date DHS has set.
What is a REAL ID Compliant License?
A ‘real ID compliant’ license has to have a person’s full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, a unique identifying number, home address, and a front-facing photo. There are also specific anti-counterfeiting measures that must be used, and rules on providing data to the federal government in a standard machine-readable format.
Prior to issuing a ‘real ID compliant’ license, a state has to require:
- A photo ID (they make you present a photo ID to get a photo ID..) or ID that includes full name and birth date
- Documentation of birth date (usually a birth certificate)
- Proof of legal status (you’re not an illegal alient) and social security number (something you didn’t even have to have when I was born)
- Documentation of your residential address
States are required to share data in a searchable database that the federal government hasn’t built yet, so no state could be technically compliant even though DHS says most states are.
If Your Drivers License Isn’t Real ID Complaint You Can Still Fly
Anyone can use a passport instead, or proceed through security without ID by answering challenge questions to confirm their identity.
Most States Offer REAL ID-Compliant Licenses
DHS bullies states into complying by threatening to refuse travel to their citizens, but continues to back down. I predicted they would back down before the Presidential election in 2016 and they did. They’ve continued to back down since. Nonetheless most states have made enough progress for DHS to deem them compliant.
All states and territories have been deemed compliant except New Jersey, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands are ‘under review’; Oregon has an extension through August 7, 2020; Oklahoma has an extension through September 18, 2020. As long as you don’t live in one of those places you just need a most-current version of your license to proceed through TSA
Without additional extensions, people in areas without REAL ID-compliant options and people that haven’t updated their licenses would start getting rejected.
In any case I think we can confidently predict that the federal government will back down again rather than start denying travel en masse to citizens one month before the next Presidential election as well.
Why Are IDs Demanded at Security Checkpoints in the First Place?
ID checks began as security theater after TWA flight 800, President Clinton asked for things he could announce right away. Airlines used to ask for ID to make sure the person traveling was the one that bought the ticket, solely to restrict the resale market for airfare in order to support revenue management systems that increased the price of travel closer to departure (to prevent people from buying tickets cheap and reselling them as travel dates approached — still undercutting the airline’s price). Now the government does the airline’s work for them, ostensibly for security but a determined terrorist (the TSA has never caught a single one) doesn’t have much problem flying with fake documents.
The ‘security purpose’ of ID checks is to try to force people to fly under their real names, so that those names can be checked against the government’s highly flawed watch and do not fly lists. Anyone on such a list, intent on committing a terrorist act, would simply choose not to fly under their own name.
Those lists of course impose substantial burdens on the right to travel.
- People get added to the ‘do not fly list’ without any due process proceeding
- It’s not necessary to commit any disqualifying acts to be on that list (they’re pre-crime profiling: mere suspicion that someone might do something in the future)
- You cannot confront your accuser
- There’s almost no meaningful and timely redress procedures
Americans now have to show their papers to travel, even inside their own country. Did you know that passports weren’t required for even a lot of international travel until very recently?