“Security Vulnerability” In CLEAR Leads To Calls For Members To Have IDs Checked At Security

CLEAR is a private, fee-based service that takes your biometrics and lets you identify yourself with your fingerprints or retina scan instead of showing an ID. At airports where they’re located you can then skip to the front of the security line – whether PreCheck or regular security.

But the TSA now says CLEAR’s systems have a security vulnerability and some key lawmakers want everyone using CLEAR to still have to have their IDs verified at the security checkpoint.

The Clear verification system, which provides an expedited airport screening procedure, contains unspecified “security vulnerabilities,” according to the Dec. 22 letter to the TSA from Democrat Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, then chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the committee’s former top Republican, John Katko of New York.

  • CLEAR has 14 million members. They’ve been asked to “re-enroll approximately 48,000 travelers who hadn’t completed a facial match” as part of their registration.

  • TSA alerted Congress “that the verification system run by Clear contained unspecified vulnerabilities in vetting passengers through its registered traveler program”

The reason TSA is concerned about identity matching is because without it, passengers can’t be checked against no fly and enhanced screening lists (which themselves have huge problems, like people being added for retaliatory reasons or because someone checked the wrong box on a form, and people lack judicial review to get off the lists and are entirely at the mercy of opaque administrative procedures).

The Amex Platinum card offers a statement credit that covers the full cost of CLEAR. Both United Airlines and Delta own stakes in CLEAR, which markets (and offers discounts to) mileage members of both airlines.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. “At airports where they’re located you can then skip to the front of the security line – whether PreCheck or regular security.”

    While this may be true at some airports, it certainly isn’t the case at all airports. In Atlanta, Clear has its own separate and distinct lanes for both PreCheck and regular security. So many people have Clear in ATL that the Clear PreCheck lane is often longer/slower than regular PreCheck.

  2. There is no reason to suggest that the TSA can be trusted to claim security vulnerabilities when they refuse to acknowledge the issues within their own organization.

  3. All clear does is tie up the Precheck line at many airports needlessly anyway. They don’t share the same lanes at all airports but where they do, it’s terribly inefficient and really lowers the value of Precheck.
    Austin airport is probably the best example of this at the primary checkpoint in the mid concourse. Precheck line just gets longer waiting for Clear pax to jump in front in packs of 6 or so. They’re still checking boarding passes anyway. Just seems so inefficient

  4. Clear.dhould not affect precheck if the passenger do not have precheck. The passenger who will affect precheck lane line also has precheck and clear. TSA need to get their act together. They still have area in various airport that doesn’t utilize precheck. So what is the point of paying precheck money? Evaporate?

  5. I’d gladly pay for a lane for passengers who know what they’re doing. I’m usually stuck behind ESL families with various forbidden items in various pockets, high-laced boots, liquids, heavy metal jewelry. Etc. In the line right after when my CLEAR escort abandons me.

  6. @MaxPower

    I’m not sure I understand how Clear ties up Precheck lines.

    If you are using Clear you only get to use Precheck screening lanes if you have Clear AND Precheck. If you don;t have Precheck you are sent to a regular screening lane. That means all the Clear people would have had to go through the Precheck lane anyway and, by doing everything EXCEPT validating boarding pass prior to reaching the TSA Precheck podium there is an average of 15 – 30 seconds being saved per passenger at the TSA podium. This dramatically increases the efficiency of the TSA agent working at the podium.

  7. Let me get this straight – TSA wants the agent in the Pre Check line to also check IDs of people with Clear. IMHO no big deal. You still could use Clear to jump to the front of the line and the only additional requirement is the agent has to look at your ID. Not a huge issue and shouldn’t take long. If implemented I don’t frankly see a problem or that this is a major change.

    BTW for those without Clear that complain about Clear passengers jumping ahead of them in line there is a simple solution – sign up for Clear yourself. My Amex Platinum card (which I bet the majority of people on here carry) has “free” Clear ($179 a year to reimburse for the charge) so no reason not to get it. For any privacy zealot that doesn’t want their retinal scan with clear I can assure you (as someone who spent 40 years in IT at the highest levels) that there is really no effective “privacy”. That horse is out of the barn.

    My only complaint with Clear is how limited it is. I realize DL and UA are investors but to exclude AA hub airports hurts those of us that fly out of one (CLT for me). I rarely use it but do so in DEN, LAS and a few other airports with Clear that typically have long lines, even for Pre Check.

  8. “Let me get this straight – TSA wants the agent in the Pre Check line to also check IDs of people with Clear. IMHO no big deal. You still could use Clear to jump to the front of the line and the only additional requirement is the agent has to look at your ID. Not a huge issue and shouldn’t take long. If implemented I don’t frankly see a problem or that this is a major change.”

    You do, of course, realize that this completely defeats the entire point of CLEAR in the first place, right? The whole point is that it’s an alternative way to verify ID. If the agent in the queue has to check the ID again anyway, then CLEAR has done exactly nothing other than becoming a paid way to skip line. It either needs to continue as it is or be shut down (ideally the former of those.)

  9. @vbscript2 – I understand Clear was intended to identify people through biometrics and to require an ID does defeat that purpose. However, I still see value in “skipping the line” even if I have to show an ID to the TSA agent. My feeling is this will never pass since DL and UA (among others) will lobby Congress and the White House to continue as is plus request more info on the alleged security breach which could then be addressed. As someone with an IT background I’m always in favor of fixing the original problem instead of putting a band aid on it like requiring duplicate efforts.

  10. CLEAR is another stupid DL venture that is a total was of time and money. I usually only see “Try for Free” passengers in the line who won’t pay the $80 bucks for 5 years of TSA Precheck. I think CLEAR can be as much as $99 a month. . for what? It’s a total joke and waste of $$$.

  11. @sunviking82 – I don’t agree Clear is a “joke” but definitely limited. Not sure why anyone wouldn’t have Pre Check since almost every travel related credit card includes reimbursement for Pre Check so it doesn’t really cost anything. Also, your comment doesn’t make much sense. You do realize (or maybe not) that you need both Pre Check and Clear to really benefit. Clear just authenticates you as a person – you still have to go through TSA checks. Once you get processed by Clear you are walked to the front of the line. For the vast majority that is the Pre Check line but if you, for some reason, had Clear and not Pre Check you would get walked to the front of the regular security line and have to go through the standard process (shoes off, electronics out, body scanner, etc). Not sure why anyone with a brain would do that.

  12. @Sober, it slows down the precheck line for those in it because these are folks that still have to have an in-person interaction with the TSA Agent. Of course, it’s not an ID check but the Agent is still checking their boarding passes individually and the pax still have to use the baggage and personal screening. In my experience at some airports, you’ll be in the precheck line, the Clear folks will come to their kiosk after I join the precheck line, do their scan, then join a pack of other Clear folks that jump ahead of you in line for baggage screening instead of where they would be if they utilized the precheck line, behind me in line at precheck.

    I’m simply noting that people pay to utilize the precheck line (as the clear people do in this instance) but TSA shouldn’t lower the value (which the entire value of paying for precheck is time in line and ease of security) of a government-sponsored product, PreCheck, by allowing a privately funded company to bypass their own product. I have no problem with the private] sector, but not when the government created and sells their own paid product for security. It gets annoying when you wait ten minutes because Clear agent after Clear Agent comes with 5-6 folks and ties up the TSA Agent’s time and the baggage security line with Clear pax ahead of those in the precheck line.

  13. Clear does not use a retina scan.

    Clear does use an Iris scan.

    The Retina is the unique map of blood vessels in the back of your eye, visible through the pupil with specialized instruments.

    The Iris is the part of your eye with color, near the front of your eye, and also is unique individual to individual.

    Clear snapshots your iris.

  14. I’m good with having my ID checked so long as I can bypass the precheck line. Some airports do this already.

    However as BigTee notes we really need a third scanner line for seasoned travelers who know what they are doing. Too many dumbkopfs in the precheck line who have no clue on what to do when they get to the xray belt. Maybe call it Precheck Pro for those with elite status.

  15. How in the actual [vulgarity redacted – gl] can a clear security vulnerability be a problem when compared to regular TSA who doesn’t scan your ID, they just make sure it has the right hologram and matches your face? All Clear does is pull up your ID for you when you show it your eyes, compare your ID name to your ticket, and the agent checks your face to the clear registration photo. Any issues that could be solved by making clear members lose the only benefit of skipping ID lines would be solved by tweaking some things then having members rescan. Unless whatever issues Clear has… Regular TSA has. So what the [vulgarity redacted -gl].

  16. I received clear free for a year from my United card. So far I haven’t seen it to be worthwhile. There aren’t usually long pre-check lines at the airports I use. One my trip this week I had to give my ID to the TSA agent after doing the eye scan due to an “ID spot check.

  17. Yes pre check pro should be the next generation product. Must take an hour in person training class on how to proceed through security appropriately with a mock setup and pass a skills test based on it.

  18. What’s the endgame for CLEAR and TSA Pre?
    I always thought that CLEARs data and systems would be sold to the govt and CLEAR would fold into TSAs responsibility.

    I still see it as a proof of concept / novelty – definitely very useful and I love using it. But there’s no reason TSA can’t do this as well.

    CLEAR feels nothing more than a data harvesting company that has a unique solution at airports, concerts and stadiums.

  19. The Clear people see our picture-ID whrn we use our finger-prints or retina scan! Why do we need to show IDA againaa/ Do they not trust the CLear peps to look at the screen?

  20. I was totally lost when a random ID check came up for me I really didn’t see what it consisted of as for as what procedure took place it all looked like the same situation

  21. Literally all interesting points. Yesterday for the first time I left my ID at my Brooklyn apartment. I was in a huge rush and had to Lyft and pack in a short amount of time like, 10’mins. Plus traffic to Newark. Maybe I’ll accept one day I LEFT MY ID. And went to fly.- but United said I still could , just had to speak to tsa. And! I have clear! I was so calm because freaking solves nothing. So I went to clear showed my ticket, no ID required – was like love clear let’s go. No, “random ID” check came up when I scanned my iris and there I was… clear employee told me they have to implement more and more randomized checks and only will be ramping up before fixing these issues between them and tsa.
    I could think of a tons of ways they could simply and quickly work together to send me through since my literal finger print, iris, picture ID and other forms are on clear . Tons . So while it’s nice to skip the line . The fuck is the point when they, clear, say no Id!!!! Clear is unclear and I’m to blame at the end of the day, I forgot my Id. But don’t promise to take my very private body scans and info to randomly take that back. How bout I want my money back? Kk over it clearly

Comments are closed.