Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Takedown orders

After a significant delay (which I apologize for), I am putting the takedown order that TSA sent to me online. The main reason I'm posting this is to aid legal scholars, and the online community in general. I believe that I'm the first person who has ever had TSA force them to take a website down. This is interesting enough in itself to warrant further investigation by people who know the law.

Interestingly enough, the guy who signed it, Rich Adams, is the same person who I spoke to at TSA a few months back when I asked to see the policies regarding when a passenger can refuse to go through the air puffer machines (which he denied me, as the rules are Sensitive Security Information - i.e. a secret law that we have to trust they are implementing and enforcing correctly). More info on that conversation can be found here


Anonymous said...

Considering you had no intention of actually using one of these generated boarding passes, it does not appear as though these Codes apply to you. I surmise this is why you have been freed.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the sections of the law in the letter do not apply to you unless you actually try to ENTER a secured area with a fake document.

I don't think they could have legally forced you shut down the website simply based on this verbiage. But, unfortunately, there is very little one can do when facing the bully tactics of the 'war on terror' based law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, if what you're doing isn't illegal why don't you take your case to court? I think the reason is because what you're doing is clearly illegal and you would lose. You are lucky they didn't put you in jail. Whoever said that the law doesn't apply unless you use a counterfeit boarding pass could not be more wrong. What legitimate use do they have? decorations? They can help people bankrupt the airline industry, and can also help unauthorized people get on flights, which could be quite unsafe given the current state of the world. You were facilitating illegal activities, which is quite illegal. I would love to hear an argument for why you think that what you're doing should be a legally protected activity. People like you give free speech advocates a bad name. You are foolish.

Anonymous said...

I am not suggesting you follow the below statement, nor am I condoning the below statement, nor am I related to the below statement. Nor do I wish to be contacted about the below statement, nor do I wish to cuase harm through this statement.

Get a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

There may be a good case for fighting this and maybe recovering damages.

We must fight back against out-of-control government.

Contact the Institute for Justice at http://www.ij.org/ .
They specialize in fighting big brother's assaults on liberty.

Anonymous said...

"can also help unauthorized people get on flights" ??? I don't think this is at all accurate. Northwest ALWAYS scans the bar code on this type of boarding pass at the gate. Clearly this one would not pass muster. The gate agent would then check their computer, find out there was no record of this passenger and send the passenger back to the ticket counter (or call security).

Anonymous said...

It looks to me (though, I am not a lawyer) that it is a crime to use one of those boarding passes to pass through security at the airport and/or get into an airplane.

I don't see anything in his statements that backs up his belief that creating the boarding passes violates the law. Using them, yes, creating them.. hmm?

I would put the website back up since the FBI has determined that you have not broken any laws. Tell the TSA to stick it where the four-ounce liquids go.

Speaking of that, I had to throw away my toothpaste yesterday because it was in a tube labeled 3.4 oz. It was half-empty, but still.. I guess if I had squirted it into a baggie or something I would have been ok? ridiculous. Stick it to them.

Bill Teeple said...

But - you can be sure that the law will now be re-written to now make it a crime to even perpetuate said circumstances that Chris was trying to expose - just as it is illegal to make government/state documents (fake ID's, SS cards, etc.).

Our government has become more and more restrictive against the general public than it has against the people who actually perpetuate the crimes. Chris is correct in his statements recently about "who are the criminals" and there aren't repeat suicide bombers.

I find it ironically funny that the terrorists from 9/11 are still on the no fly list - but this may be due in part to the want to catch people who either want to use their names as a symbolic gesture during an attack or maybe it is more symbolic to keep the names on the list as a rememberance?

I do not agree with most of the policies coming out of Washington these days and I feel that in the next 2 years, a lot of damage can still be done by the BUSH administration.

But we must wait them out and come November 2008, VOTE for the change we all need.

Bill Teeple

Anonymous said...

1. The law that the cite does not aply unless you try to use the pass.

2. That does not mean they cannot find another way to stop you such as facilitation charges. I'd have to look it up.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel that logic escapes most people these days. Why don't you; with all your P.H.D. education, work with the TSA and help them, instead of heckling with them.

This whole thing could easily be solved by the TSA by using a scanner at the security check points to read the bar code and validate the document. Therefore, no one but legitimate passengers would be allowed into the gate areas.

Geee''' how hard is that?

Anonymous said...

The government guys should re-think their policy of private owned fireweapons - According to the letter, the government IS FACILITATING murders and a bunch of other felonies. Why don't they take all the guns back before cracking a website? I wouldn't mind anybody boarding a plane without weapons and just for fun, as long as (s)he does not take my seat.

Anonymous said...

What is someone wanted to use the boarding pass as an invitation to a party - surely that is not a breach of Federal Aviation laws...?

Anonymous said...

In as much as TSA wants to bring the site down it's not about the site, it's about the failed security measures of TSA. But, like the Bush administration, anytime something does not work they shoot the person who points it out and keep up with their useless measures. I applaud you Chris! Taking your site down WILL NOT make any of us safer, we need new policies, measures, operations, and leadership!

Oisín said...

Surely creating software to create these fake boarding passes (and the act of printing them) is no more illegal than designing and creating guns, which are much more likely to cause harm to people.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a proof of concept novelty thing rather than an 'immediate danger' of any sort.
In contrast, guns cause tens of thousands of deaths each year in the USA.

So I don't see that they have a valid case against you, ethically or based on the laws they quoted you.
(oh, someone else said this already, but probably better. pox.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, buddy. You need to get a grip. What you have done is illegal. Creating counterfeit documents is a federal felony, and I am sad that you are actually not in jail. Next time you do something as stupid as that, whether you are "showing security failures" or not, you should be locked up immediately.

Anonymous said...

This is a bullshit, scare-you-into-doing-what-they-want type letter.

You could have ignored it and thrown it into the shit-can. Read the exact language of the statement: "Should" (stop posting whatever document they are objecting to).

There's no "order" here. Had they been serious, they would have simply shut-it down. This is just a "prudent" "PR" move to cover their ass in case someone takes the site (and you) seriously and wants to know why "they" are not doing something about it.

This is both "something" and nothing.

Jim Boggia said...

Yeah, this is bullshit. Your website was not violating ANY of the sections they mentioned to scare you. Also, as the person above pointed out, the use of "should" indicates that they have nothing in hand to back up ther case, they'd just like it taken down.

I think you should put it back up and fight.


John Hedtke said...

I'm a trifle surprised at the folks who are dumping on this. "If what you're doing isn't illegal why don't you take your case to court?" It actually costs money and time and, to use a phrase one of my former writers was keen on, "It's not the ditch to die in." (It occurs to me that just because something may have no legitimate purpose is not a prohibition, yet. They actually do serve a great purpose: showing up security bullshit.) It's too bad that your definition of free speech doesn't include differing opinions.

A counterfeit document isn't per se a crime. Even fake money is no longer a crime as long as it's clear that it's not intended for money. But more to the point, the statutes cited are stating illegalities that have nothing to do with the website in question.

And it doesn't matter how much education you have--Ph.D. or otherwise--the TSA isn't interested in running things effectively. They've turned down help big and small. It's all security theater. Given that they're checking for only a few things that may be dangerous--and that not very well--but (as *so* many other people have pointed out) you can smuggle lots of Truly Bad Stuff on a plane that they aren't even bothering to look at, what's the point?

It'd be lovely if we had competent, effective security, but we've got the TSA instead.

If we, who are merely critical of the TSA and would like it to do a real job, can think of things like this that don't even require much thinking, what can people who might actually want to bring down a plane and who are TRAINED in this kind of thing be able to come up with? (Answer: we couldn't even begin to imagine. And, obviously, neither could the TSA.)

Anonymous said...

Because computer systems occassionaly fail the airline industry has backup systems to allow the boarding of ticketed passengers solely using paper boarding passes. Unfortunately this means that 100% of boarding passes cannot be validated as authentic. I'm sure that when terrorists use your idea to gain access to aircraft and cause the needless deaths of hundreds or thousands of people you'll sleep well at night and dish out red herrings, blaming the government instead of yourself. Of course the homeland security programs are far from perfect but the enemies seeking our destruction are nearly impossible to fight. It's too bad that traitors like yourself are trying to help them to kill people like me. Did you ever stop to think that maybe we don't want you to publicize security weaknesses and put us all at increased risk? If you think you are helping you need to change your M.O.

Anonymous said...

He has no intention of entering the aircraft with one of the boarding passes himself, but considering that conspiracy to commit a crime is also a crime, they might decide that the operation of the website is an act in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit the codes cited.

Of course, there is a part of me that admires anyone who can find a potential hole in the security system -- as for the computer scanning, there is also such a thing as "paper"... in the event of a computer malfunction, have paper printouts of the passenger manifests given to the TSA by gate numbers 24 hours in advance, and then again at the 2 hour mark (if the systems aren't down again already.) Simply using a fake name wouldn't work nearly as well then.

Of course, if the terrorists can engineer a computer malfunction to let them not get scanned, then get through security w/ a dangerous object, they might have already won.

Unknown said...

The actual name called conspiracy, conspiring to commit fraud is a crime.

You see conspiracy in and of itself is not a crime unless someone you conspired with committed a crime.

Anonymous said...

Some of the comments on here are so ridiculous. Some of you people have no idea what you're talking about. It's been proven that the TSA has done nothing but collect a whole bunch of lighters and other very periculous liquids (perfume bottles, toothpaste and such) but to this date, no terrorists have been arrested.

ALL of you should be applauding Chris for having show these people that what they're at the airports is a big circus and all of us, travelers, are part of the show.

Someone here said that terrorists wouldn't board planes using this method and that is so true. Those people, if they ever really existed, are going to spend thousands of dollars on something that has much better quality and probably validity than a boarding press printed out of a website. They have access to technology that most of us have never seen.

All the money that is being spent on increasing security and on the war is coming out of the taxpayers' pockets, but who said we needed the war in the first place? Who disrespected the decision of the United Nations and went to war anyway? Yes, the same person that wants his name in history books because he's as proud as a peacock and doesn't give a damn to his fellow citizens.

Next time you put your hands on the ballot, think twice --

Congratulations, Chris, for showing these idiots who stupid they are.

The TSA has a bunch of old, fat people working at most airports who can't run a mile if they need to catch someone.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you got a cease and desist letter...I wonder if you last name were different if the Feds would not instead be busting down your door.

Anonymous said...

The law says that "intent to commit" is a violation as well. Creating tools that permit unauthorized entry into a secured area could be interpreted by a court as evidence of "intent to commit" and be sufficient for a conviction. So, I think technically, the letters are justified.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that boarding passes are insecure and that it's good that someone made that fact publicly known. These kinds of passes should be secured with cryptographic signatures.

Anonymous said...

Some good points have been made here, however I wonder if the generated tickets would actually pass inspection by TSA. Are there any reports of someone successfully getting through security with any fraudulent tickets? Without such an instance, then you might just as easily assume that the TSA, in fact, DOES know what its doing and TSA agents check some code on your ticket that would indicate a mismatch between printed name and ticketed name. I can think of at least one way TSA could do that.

As a side issue, I always thought that the airlines bought onto the whole security setup as a way to prevent travellers from trading tickets. I remember the days when you could buy someone's cheaper ticket from an add in the classifieds. PLUS they get to charge a 'security' fee per ticket. :)

Anonymous said...

Northwest will catch you that you have a fraudulent boarding pass just by looking at it. First, the first 3 digits of the ticket numbers corresponds on a specific airline. Obviously, yours is bogus. Just in case you made a guess and it actually corresponds to an existing airline other than northwest, employees can check if your ticket was really issued by the said airline. Next, the frequent flyer of northwest has 2 formats 9 and 12 digits. All employees are familiar whether the 9 or 12 digit mileage number is legit. For example, the 9 digit numbers has 987 for the first 3 digits and 654 for the 12 digit. Another one, the flight number is coded for international and for domestic flights. For example, international flights have x number of digits and domestic has x number of digits. Also domestic flights start with digit x. X, as hypothetical. Another point is, all the nwa employees assigned in their specific station knows by heart the flights numbers that leave their station because they handle it every day. So if you bogus flight number doesn't tally with the departure and arrival city and their times, it would easily raise a flag. The SSSS mark on the boarding pass correspond to a different type of screening regarding you identity, your bags and your documents so clearly it will be very hard for you to use your bogus boarding pass because nwa employees knows how to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

I’m an insider to airport security and there is actually a loophole in the law that the TSA letter cited. In any airport there are two levels of secured areas. One being the sterile area, which is the area that passengers have normal access to when they have passed security screening, the other security level is known as the secure area which was cited in the letter in airport security terminology. The secure area includes the locations around the airport such as the ramp and cargo facilities that only employees can rightfully access. So in reality presenting a boarding pass to only fraudulently enter the sterile area of an airport is not a federal crime or at least could not be prosecuted under the law cited in the TSA letter. It is only a crime if one would use fraudulent means to enter the secure, behind the scenes area’s of the airport and not a crime to access the normal passenger facilities in a fraudulent manner. Of course there are other federal, state, and local laws as well as airport and airline rules that would prohibit the access of a non-passenger to the sterile areas. But there are many other ways to legitimately obtain access to the sterile areas in a much less risky manner, but I will not go into those.

Anonymous said...




British Airways red-faced over faux image of Bin Laden boarding pass

1 hr 6 mins ago

It just seems like a bad time for any firm with the word "British" in its title. We know all too well the various setbacks experienced by the oil giant once known as British Petroleum; now British Airways has drawn much unwelcome attention to itself with a photo touting its new mobile-boarding pass system as it appears to expedite the air travel of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man.


The photo appeared in the LHR News, the company's internal staff magazine covering London's Heathrow Airport. The image accompanied an article spelling out the benefits of the mobile-boarding setup, which permits users of mobile digital devices to print out their boarding passes on the fly. The boarding pass reads "Bin Laden/Osama" and appears in the graphic panel of a user's iPhone. (AT&T reception in remote Pakistani caves is apparently better than anyone might have guessed.)

What's more, the image features a frequent-flier number for passenger bin Laden — so much for all those airport terrorist watch lists — and has him flying first class on Oct. 26, 2010. As the travel site Gadling.com mused, "sadly, knowing the brilliant minds behind the anti-terror organizations, the terror level will be raised to 'red hot' on October 26, 2010, while airport police all over the world try to figure out which airport the most wanted terrorist in the world will be flying to."

So how did this happen? The short answer is that no one knows — or at least, no one's telling if they do. A British Airways spokeswoman told ABC News reporter Scott Mayerowitz that "a mistake has been made in this internal publication and we are working to find out how this occurred." And in response to a follow-up call from Yahoo! News, another spokeswoman for the airline remained firmly on message, saying, "We're still working to find out how this occurred at this time."

The gaffe could be the result of a tasteless prank that got out of hand — but current speculation is running toward the theory that it's the handiwork of a disgruntled employee. British Airways is currently locked in a labor dispute with the union representing its cabin-crew workers, and the strike has grounded flights for thousands of travelers in one of the busiest travel times of the year. At issue in the labor fight is a proposed cut in the base salaries for new flight attendants. The company estimates that it has lost more than $150 million in revenue during the dispute.

Between the union woes and the Osama PR setback, British Airways executives must be fondly reminiscing about last summer, when the major controversy was the airline's plan to sell ad space on its online boarding passes.

—Brett Michael Dykes is a national affairs writer for Yahoo! News.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it may not be illegal to generate a boarding pass, however it is illegal to use a fake one, so the offence is potentially facilitating fraud, terrorism and gaining advantage by use of deception etc. Also as stated in the takedown order it can pose an extreme threat to national security.
Cpl Jack Brown RAF

Anonymous said...

Can't believe all the dopes that think a fake boarding pass will get them on the plane without a ticket.