TSA responds to xkcd strip

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby sje46 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:02 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
sje46 wrote:Am I reading this incorrectly, or are you talking about how hitting a building with a plane won't destroy it? Because I think that's been pretty empirically proven wrong.

I don't think you can say it's been proven wrong, really. A plane *can* destroy a building by hitting it, but that doesn't mean it *will*. After all, there have been other (smaller) planes that ran into buildings without any serious consequences for the building.

Right, but you knew what I meant.

As far as I'm aware, none of those planes which have hit buildings without destroying them (from memory, I know only of the Empire State Building one, and another one shortly after 9/11 in Tampa) were very small planes. And even then, I'm sure they caused serious consequences, if not necessarily destroying them.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Alexius » Mon Oct 26, 2009 12:49 am UTC

sje46 wrote:Right, but you knew what I meant.

As far as I'm aware, none of those planes which have hit buildings without destroying them (from memory, I know only of the Empire State Building one, and another one shortly after 9/11 in Tampa) were very small planes. And even then, I'm sure they caused serious consequences, if not necessarily destroying them.

I assume you mean "all" not "none". Some reasonably large planes have hit buildings and not destroyed them, for instance the B-25 (weighs 19 tons MTOW, about the same as a small regional jet) which hit the Empire State Building in 1945 in thick fog.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Ronfar » Mon Oct 26, 2009 4:53 am UTC

Aikanaro wrote:EDIT: I may have mentioned this before, I forget, but I've also always wondered about whether, with whatever resources they have available, they could make guns out of nonmetallic components. Granted they couldn't make many, but you wouldn't need many to hijack a plane.....


People have tried to make guns out of non-metallic material, and nobody's really succeeded yet. The biggest problem, or so I've heard, is the recoil of the gun; by Newton's third law, the force of the recoil is equal to the force of the bullet. A gun made out of weak materials would break apart, and an insufficiently massive gun wouldn't absorb enough of the recoil, making the shooter's hand absorb all the force.

A better approach might be to use a *fake* gun and some noisemakers. On the other hand, post 9/11, many passengers and crew members probably would fight to the death before letting hijackers into the cockpit, so, yeah, you might actually need to kill everyone on board if you want to take control of the plane and crash it into a building.

If you really want to get clever, though, you could try to pull a Frank William Abignale and impersonate a pilot. Or just get yourself hired as an airline pilot the normal way, and then crash the plane once you get a good opportunity.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Steax » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:26 am UTC

On flying a plane into a building: It's easy to mess up. Way too easy. Hitting the building from a distance means you have to get good bearings on the building (without guidance help) and hit it square on, right into it's structure, at the right points. It's much like asteroids hitting the earth, actually. Hit from an off angle and the plane bounces off and into other buildings. Miss just a few meters and you might just sever your wing.

Of course, for the purposes of attracting media, it's a pretty good way to do it. But in terms of destruction, it's overkill.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby BlackSails » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:39 am UTC

Look, the purpose of airplace security is to make people feel safe and stop the dumbest terrorists from attacking the planes. All you need to bomb a plane is a BA in chemistry, a garage for testing and a few people to order chemicals for you. Most uni libraries are going to have books with titles like "Organic Chemistry of highly reactive substances" or "High Energy Peroxides" and stuff like that.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby phillipsjk » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:20 am UTC

So I followed the link they suggested:
Blogger Bob (TSA) wrote:To date, I think those questions were answered best in an interview with Ars Technica’s Jon Stokes.


It was instructive, assuming they aren't lying for "security reasons":
Kip (TSA) wrote:4.
The preparation of these bombs is very much more complex than tossing together several bottles-worth of formula and lighting it up. In fact, in recent tests, a National Lab was asked to formulate a test mixture and it took several tries using the best equipment and best scientists for it to even ignite. That was with a bomb prepared in advance in a lab setting. A less skilled person attempting to put it together inside a secure area or a plane is not a good bet. You have to have significant uninterrupted time with space and other requirements that are not easily available in a secured area of an airport. It adds complexity to their preferred model and reduces our risk, having the expert make the bomb and give it to someone else to carry aboard. They are well aware of the Richard Reid factor where he could not even ignite a completed bomb. Simple is truly better for them. Also, bomb-makers are easier for us to identify than so-called clean 'mules.'


Reading that blog made me decide the liquid ban was stupider than I originally thought (and that's saying something). I was under the impression there was a credible threat August 10, 2006 justifying a temporary ban. After commenting about this on the more recent blog, I thought of a way to bring a low-yield explosive onto a plane (still useful for starting a fire).

You just have you just have to go back to the "Fire Triangle" you were taught in elementary school:
  • Oxidizing agent (Oxygen is supplied on an Aircraft)
  • Fuel
  • Ignition source (You are allowed to bring these on a aircraft)

The problem with a binary explosive is that you are smuggling two things onto an aircraft, when it would arouse a lot less suspicion to simply smuggle something that burns (and is not tested for) on-board.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Calski » Mon Oct 26, 2009 3:45 pm UTC

The thing I feel is that the idea is that a explosive sealed in a air tight container (a water bottle) wont be detected with a sniffer. Therefore they have baned large containers. However I have never been searched with a sniffer which means that oldschool solid explosives are still relatively easy to get onboard an aircraft. there are even some explosives that dose not contain nitrogen and are therefor even harder to detect.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby BlackSails » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:30 pm UTC

Dogs will detect most normal explosives. They wont detect unusual ones like octanitrocubane though.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Walter.Horvath » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:30 pm UTC

This thread is getting /hot/. :)

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Josephine » Mon Oct 26, 2009 7:44 pm UTC

note to the TSA: Don't make xkcdians angry.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby General_Norris » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:38 pm UTC

I'm pretty sure we can come up with so many ways to bring explosives or weapons to an airplane that they will choose to ban it altogether.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby The Reaper » Mon Oct 26, 2009 8:52 pm UTC

you're all on a list somewhere, I hope you know that, right?

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby The Utilitarian » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:07 am UTC

Walter.Horvath wrote:Ooooooooh.

You'd probably still be detained (at the very least) for suspicious alchemy, or something.

They'd have no trouble arresting you, too.

And don't even THINK of turning lead into gold anywhere near the airplane, that'll get you in trouble for sure.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Spacemilk » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:23 pm UTC

Google search the "Winerack" and the "Beerbelly". I'm pretty sure you could smuggle in large quantities of whatever liquid you wanted simply by pretending to be a large-breasted woman with a bit of a belly. Even if they pat you down, a bit of padding will disguise any inconsistencies created by the bags. The only way to catch you is to do a strip search... which I have never, ever seen happen.

A guy here at work who was formerly in the Army once told me how to smuggle metal knives on to a plane. Not something I'm going to post here, but the methodology sounded quite simple and it seemed like it'd work. He claimed he'd actually done it on multiple occasions.

Honestly there are so many ways to smuggle things on to planes, it's a complete joke. The articles from the Atlantic on this topic were extremely interesting.

p.s. The best way to make sure no one smuggles stuff is to have everyone go in the nude, and to do frequent random cavity searches. Then we'll really be safe! MAKE IT SO
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby mosc » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:17 pm UTC

To me it's more like "Why do you insist on making me take off my shoes? I can fit much more in my baggy jeans!" It's straight volume.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Darkscull » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:28 pm UTC

mosc wrote:To me it's more like "Why do you insist on making me take off my shoes? I can fit much more in my baggy jeans!" It's straight volume.


Forget clothes, or even orifices.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:28 pm UTC

Spacemilk wrote:The only way to catch you is to do a strip search... which I have never, ever seen happen.

Well of course you haven't.

They have a little room for that sort of thing.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Spacemilk » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:12 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Spacemilk wrote:The only way to catch you is to do a strip search... which I have never, ever seen happen.

Well of course you haven't.

They have a little room for that sort of thing.

And here I've been buying plane tickets for a free show... what a ripoff!

I'm joking... I just meant I've never been pulled aside, or known someone who was pulled aside, or watched as someone else was taken aside. I travel quite a bit for business, and only once in my life have I ever been taken aside for a random additional bag search, which I assume (and hope) are more common than strip searches.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Cynical Idealist » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:16 pm UTC

Spacemilk wrote:I'm joking... I just meant I've never been pulled aside, or known someone who was pulled aside, or watched as someone else was taken aside. I travel quite a bit for business, and only once in my life have I ever been taken aside for a random additional bag search, which I assume (and hope) are more common than strip searches.

You are clearly not my dad. He gets randomly searched every single time he flys.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby joshz » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:52 pm UTC

Spacemilk wrote:And here I've been buying plane tickets for a free show... what a ripoff!
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby vslayer » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:23 am UTC

Cynical Idealist wrote:You are clearly not my dad. He gets randomly searched every single time he flys.


Doesn't that by definition make it not a random search at all?

nbonaparte wrote:note to the TSA: Don't make xkcdians angry.

The Reaper wrote:you're all on a list somewhere, I hope you know that, right?


Are you carrying any explosives? ....
Have you left your baggage unattended? ....
Are you now or have you ever been a member of the XKCD fora? ...

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby scrovak » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:50 am UTC

I may be mistaken, but I thought they came out with a sort of carbon/PVC compound for use in firearms that would stand the recoil? Also, as with most recoilless rifles, couldn't they build in a recoil chamber? Like a compartment behind the firing pin filled with air, perforrated with holes for distribution of the compressed gas from when the bullet fires, to act as a sort of blow-back chamber?
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Angua » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:43 am UTC

My mother, brother and I get 'randomly' searched every single time. I'm not quite sure why for my mother and me (my brother tends to carry a lot of electronics with him so it's a bit more plausible). We think that they track how often you travel and where to and come up with stuff from there?

Funnily enough, my dad rarely gets pulled aside though.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby scrovak » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:13 am UTC

Angua wrote:they track how often you travel and where to

Welcome to the 21st century lol. They know where, when, how often, how much luggage you usually bring, etc. It's for anti-terrrrrst prevention, or so they say.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby fjafjan » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:56 am UTC

vslayer wrote:
Cynical Idealist wrote:You are clearly not my dad. He gets randomly searched every single time he flys.


Doesn't that by definition make it not a random search at all?

No it's totally random, some people are just unlucky, like blacks and Muslims.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Spacemilk » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:22 pm UTC

fjafjan wrote:No it's totally random, some people are just unlucky, like blacks and Muslims.

I laughed so loudly my manager is now giving me quite suspicious looks... ack!!!

Also I don't think they choose based on frequency of travel, since I travel a LOT for business. As far as electronics - I always carry on my work laptop with an extra battery, my Zune, my cell phone, my Kindle, and occasionally a netbook too. And luggage - I never, ever, EVER check anything. Ever. So I don't think they screen on those things. But then I'm a skinny little blonde white girl... oh wait that's right they don't screen people on the basis of appearance... hmm.

And Joshz: Yeah ok that didn't make sense, except in my coffee-deprived head.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby SlyReaper » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:40 pm UTC

Spacemilk wrote:
fjafjan wrote:No it's totally random, some people are just unlucky, like blacks and Muslims.

I laughed so loudly my manager is now giving me quite suspicious looks... ack!!!

Also I don't think they choose based on frequency of travel, since I travel a LOT for business. As far as electronics - I always carry on my work laptop with an extra battery, my Zune, my cell phone, my Kindle, and occasionally a netbook too. And luggage - I never, ever, EVER check anything. Ever. So I don't think they screen on those things. But then I'm a skinny little blonde white girl... oh wait that's right they don't screen people on the basis of appearance... hmm.

And Joshz: Yeah ok that didn't make sense, except in my coffee-deprived head.


How in Flying Spaghetti Monster's name do you get all that electronic stuff plus clothes into handluggage? Do you not have a weight limit or something? My laptop alone uses up half my handluggage allowance (5kg and not one gram more), and that's without cables and charger. :(
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Kizyr » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:51 pm UTC

Spacemilk wrote:
fjafjan wrote:No it's totally random, some people are just unlucky, like blacks and Muslims.

I laughed so loudly my manager is now giving me quite suspicious looks... ack!!!

I can never keep my face straight when someone insists to my face that their search of me is "completely random". I guess I'm just really, really unlucky. KF
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:55 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:How in Flying Spaghetti Monster's name do you get all that electronic stuff plus clothes into handluggage?

There's the carry-on plus the "personal item", for one thing. In a standard US-sized carry-on I can fit clothes for a week, and I can fit all the aforementioned electronics into one laptop briefcase thing to put under the seat in front of me.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Azrael » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:04 pm UTC

scrovak wrote:
Angua wrote:they track how often you travel and where to

Welcome to the 21st century lol. They know where, when, how often, how much luggage you usually bring, etc. It's for anti-terrrrrst prevention, or so they say.

I hate to be a buzzkill for conspiracy theorists out there, but once you've checked in and wandered over to a gate, does anyone check your ID against a list? Sure, the person at the start of the line makes sure that you, your ID and the ticket match, but they don't *also* check you against a list. And the people actually searching you or your stuff only visually verify you have a boarding pass.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Kain » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:01 pm UTC

Kizyr wrote:
Spacemilk wrote:
fjafjan wrote:No it's totally random, some people are just unlucky, like blacks and Muslims.

I laughed so loudly my manager is now giving me quite suspicious looks... ack!!!

I can never keep my face straight when someone insists to my face that their search of me is "completely random". I guess I'm just really, really unlucky. KF


I was rather fortunate the time I was pulled aside in Belize, then. They straight up said I looked suspicious, and proceeded to check my bags three times before they let me through... (White male, but had ridiculously long hair).
I probably shouldnt have joked around when they asked if I had any weapons on me, but apparenly the comment "If you count a really, really sharp pencil, then I guess so." wasn't enough to aggrevate their security.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Spacemilk » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:13 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:How in Flying Spaghetti Monster's name do you get all that electronic stuff plus clothes into handluggage? Do you not have a weight limit or something? My laptop alone uses up half my handluggage allowance (5kg and not one gram more), and that's without cables and charger. :(

Not only is there no weight limit for carry-ons, but you can have two carryons (a duffel bag/suitcase plus a personal bag/laptop bag). My laptop bag, which is an absolute beast, holds my laptop+battery, netbook, and Kindle; my duffel bag holds my clothes; and then, because I am tricksy, I hide my purse behind my duffel bag so I sneak a 3rd bag on, which is how I sneak my cell phone and Zune on.

And yet in spite of my maximization of carry-on luggage, I *still* only take up one spot in the overhead bins; my laptop bag just barely fits under the seat and my purse goes on my lap. My pet peeve is when people lug on two huge carryons then put them *both* overhead. They take up so much room that if I board at the end of the line, there's a significant chance there won't be any overhead spots left.
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby BlackSails » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:19 pm UTC

My family used to get searched alot, before we stopped ordering kosher meals. One time, they made my brother take out, assemble and play his flute.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Azrael » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:14 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:My family used to get searched alot, before we stopped ordering kosher meals.

You're going to have to explain the thought process that lead you to correlate those two.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Nordic Einar » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:23 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
scrovak wrote:
Angua wrote:they track how often you travel and where to

Welcome to the 21st century lol. They know where, when, how often, how much luggage you usually bring, etc. It's for anti-terrrrrst prevention, or so they say.

I hate to be a buzzkill for conspiracy theorists out there, but once you've checked in and wandered over to a gate, does anyone check your ID against a list? Sure, the person at the start of the line makes sure that you, your ID and the ticket match, but they don't *also* check you against a list. And the people actually searching you or your stuff only visually verify you have a boarding pass.


Actually, while flying to Florida for my S/O's parent's wedding there was apparently a "heightened threat level". We had photo ID and ticket checked thrice, and at the gate all were checked a fourth time. We were then detained for 2 and a half hours as they attempted to verify my identity with the FBI because of... I'm not really sure, actually. We almost missed our flight.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby BlackSails » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:27 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
BlackSails wrote:My family used to get searched alot, before we stopped ordering kosher meals.

You're going to have to explain the thought process that lead you to correlate those two.


Muslims order kosher meals on planes, since Kosher and Halal are fairly similar.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Azrael » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:01 pm UTC

So ... they guys at the security gate know what kinds of meals you ordered?

Oh. That might have been humor.

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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Cynical Idealist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:19 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:So ... they guys at the security gate know what kinds of meals you ordered?

Oh. That might have been humor.

The guys at the security gate don't actually make the call on who gets pulled aside for random searches. They just look for the sign on your ticket (there's a "SSSS" stamp if you're going to be pulled aside for the random checks).

Actually, I've had the line of 'S's written on my boarding pass before, but that was because I did something apparently suspicious (left my backpack in a restaurant, realized that right as I reached the pass-checking guy, went back and grabbed it).
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby Kizyr » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:36 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:
Azrael wrote:
BlackSails wrote:My family used to get searched alot, before we stopped ordering kosher meals.

You're going to have to explain the thought process that lead you to correlate those two.

Muslims order kosher meals on planes, since Kosher and Halal are fairly similar.

Nearly every carrier also offers halal meals, so most Muslims just order that (if they're aware of special meals in the first place). That's what I always order when the flight includes meal service.

Besides that, the data is something that's kept on the airline carrier's end, not something that airport security would have access to. So, it wouldn't be logical for the two to get connected. In my case, I've never found them to be connected. KF
~Kizyr
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PossibleSloth
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Re: TSA responds to xkcd strip

Postby PossibleSloth » Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:00 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:I hate to be a buzzkill for conspiracy theorists out there, but once you've checked in and wandered over to a gate, does anyone check your ID against a list? Sure, the person at the start of the line makes sure that you, your ID and the ticket match, but they don't *also* check you against a list. And the people actually searching you or your stuff only visually verify you have a boarding pass.


This is actually a serious problem. If your name is on the Do Not Fly list, you can still get on a plane by purchasing a ticket under a false name, making a fake boarding pass using your real name (there used to be a website that would generate fake boarding passes :lol: ) and presenting the fake boarding pass and a real ID at security. Because security doesn't compare the boarding pass to a database, you can make it say whatever you want as long as the name matches your ID. Then at the gate, where they don't check your ID, you present the real boarding pass with the fake name and have a lovely flight.

I hope they're doing something to change this (besides shutting down the fake boarding pass website), since it seems like a pretty big problem that any halfway decent terrorist could figure out.


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