Just before the most historically traveled holiday in the United States, a Fox Chicago News undercover investigation reveals a gaping hole in security screening at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
The local news station rounded up employees of different races, genders, and religions; bought them a ticket to various destinations across the country; and had them try to get through security and onto their flight without a photo identification over a two-month span. That means no state-issued driver's license or U.S. passport.
It worked, the station reports.
On every occasion, these Fox employees were allowed through security without a hitch as long as they showed that the name on their boarding pass matched the name on a couple of credit cards.
"This is fascinating," former FBI agent Anthony D'Angelo said after seeing hidden video of the Fox employees at the two airports. "To get a bogus credit card is one of the easiest forms of identification to get."
D'Angelo, who previously oversaw security at Midway and O’Hare, said he was shocked that TSA wasn't more thorough.
"If you’re a terrorist or doing surveillance to check out secure areas of the airport, it would be very easy to get into those secure areas without any identification," he said.
As Fox Chicago News points out, the 9-11 Commission report's final ten pages highlighted the importance of secure IDs and the dangers of identity fraud.
"Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft," the report states. "At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists."
A quick search on TSA.gov's Web site shows the TSA screeners at O'Hare were following protocol. According to the agency, travelers should carry these acceptable IDs to travel through security.
Travelers that do not have any of these acceptable IDs "will have to provide information to the Transportation Security Officer performing Travel Document Checking duties in order to verify their identity," says the TSA Web site. "Passengers who are cleared through this process may be subject to additional screening."
According to Fox Chicago News, only two of their employees underwent additional screening.
Only twice did a Fox employee have to go through additional screening, according to the Fox investigation. The first time was when reporter Mark Saxenmeyer tried to see whether he could get through by showing his Hallmark rewards card and Harrah's Casino rewards card. In this case, Saxenmeyer had to wait 22 minutes before having to prove his identity to a TSA agent on the phone in Washington, who asked him a series of questions, such as where he lived and what kind of car he drove, Fox reported.
The second time was when a Fox producer tried to get through with just a couple of Blockbuster cards and a Bally's membership card. Only this time, he got through without having to answer any questions from TSA, according to Fox.
If the traveler can still not verify their identity, they cannot go through security or board their flight, according to the TSA Web site.
According to Fox Chicago News, TSA released this statement after the station informed the agency of their investigation: "ID verification is an important process and represents one of the many security layers, which also includes threat detection technology, behavior detection officers, and the physical screening that occurs at airports."
♦ Photo of O'Hare's Terminal One by yuan2003/Flickr