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Mon, Nov 14, 2005

Two Stations Get Their Reporters On Planes -- Repeatedly -- Without Proper ID

Television Vs. The TSA...

Two television news operations at different ends of the country -- Houston's KPRC and Rochester, NY-based WHEC -- have come to the same startling conclusion: over four years after 9/11, just about anyone can board a commercial airline flight -- with or without valid identification.

In both cases, the stations used undercover cameras as reporters and producers made it past the check-in counter and security checkpoints with all forms of identification -- including a Sam's Club card, a Costco card, and even an easily-reproduced company ID that could be done on any home computer -- to clear security.

No driver's license and no passport were shown, according to KPRC, and no questions were asked. The Houston, TX station cleared security at both of Houston's large airports, as well as airports in Dallas, St. Louis, Nashville, and Little Rock.

In Rochester, a WHEC producer flew from the New York city to Washington, DC and back, using an ID card he made on a computer.

WHEC reports there is a fundamental flaw in TSA policy in how it is written, not simply how it is implemented: the station says the TSA website makes clear that a form of government issued id is required -- although there is no law that backs that up.

"After seeing this film, particularly, it's shocking," said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul after viewing the KPRC report on its six-month investigation. "How can this possibly happen?"

"I think there are a lot of questions raised with the current TSA screening process," the recently-elected TX representative -- who heads up investigations for the Homeland Security Committee in Congress -- added.

"It certainly brings to question what is their review policy," said NY Congressman Tom Reynolds. "I'm curious about the process of how, one, to make an example of security case can produce a fabricated id and have that be acceptable along with the ticket they took through. That's a worthy question."

According to both stations, the TSA maintains the fault lay with the airlines, whose responsibilty it is to hire qualified screeners.

WHEC station reports its efforts have led to tighter screening procedures at Rochester International Airport -- although whether that will necessarily solve the problem is up for debate in some passengers' eyes.

"I think a lot of it is, essentially, for show," said passenger Kevin Gooch to KPRC.



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