Rep. Norton Urges TSA to Take Corrective Action After DC License Rejected to Board Plane

Photo by PoPville flickr user zoeicaimages

From a press release:

“Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today wrote a letter to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) following an incident in which D.C. resident Ashley Brandt was initially prevented from boarding a flight because a TSA agent wrongfully believed that a District of Columbia-issued license was an invalid form of identification. The letter requests that TSA Administrator John Pistole ensure that all TSA employees are informed now and in their training that official identification issued by D.C. must be treated the same as state-issued identification, and to remind them that D.C. residents are American citizens and deserve to be treated as such. The letter urges the same for residents of the five U.S. territories.

Norton, in her letter, wrote, “I have since called Ms. Brandt to apologize that a U.S. government employee would question the right of a resident of the nation’s capital to board an airplane… This incident involving Ms. Brandt was so bizarre and ludicrous that it has captured press attention and reflects poorly on the management of TSA.”

Norton’s statement on the incident, released yesterday, is online, here.

And don’t forget the problems with the temporary paper licenses too…

34 Comment

  • This and a million other stories “reflect poorly” on the TSA…

  • This happened to a friend when flying out of Florida last year. I’ve also been asked by rental car agencies (in Florida again) what state has issued my D.C. license. SMDH.

  • Norton’s take on the incident seems way off base to me. I doubt the TSA agent was in any way influenced by statehood vs. non-statehood of DC. The agent was just an idiot who had no idea what DC is. If DC were a state, the TSA agent would still have no idea what it is.

    • Right, but it’s a big problem if the TSA Agent is just an idiot, because their idiocy almost caused this woman to illegally miss her flight. The fact that a TSA employee is in a position to think that a DC Driver’s License isn’t a valid form of ID is seriously messed up. This shows a glaring lack of training and agency oversight.

      • justinbc

        It’s not a lack of training, it’s a lack of elementary level education.

        • It’s not crazy to assume that training for a position where the PRIMARY function is identifying and validating ID cards might include, I dunno, a book or something that has pictures of all of the valid US IDs. The very kind of thing that every bar has (and I think is required to have). Whether the TSA is competent enough to ensure that the training was administered and an employee could pass a test proving they had that knowledge is a separate but related question. The whole thing doesn’t shock me in the least.

          • There is such a book for TSA. But when you’re waiting in line at the airport, do you want the agent to yell over to her supervisor in the next line “Are D.C. licenses valid identification?” (as she apparently did) or do you want her to pull out a book and start paging through as she wonders, do I look in the Ds for District or the Ws for Washington…

      • No, almost everything you said here is wrong. First, the woman was only stopped very briefly, no longer than if they had to search your bag or even run it through the x-ray a second time; so they didn’t almost cause this woman to illegally miss her flight. Second, checking for valid IDs is one of the TSA’s basic jobs; it is their duty to try to discern valid IDs from invalid IDs. Third, as justinbc said this is a case of elementary education, not an agency-level failure of training and oversight. (In fact, I’d say the oversight and training is just fine considering that the misinformed TSA agent was immediately overruled by a nearby colleague.)

    • justinbc

      Yeah, but she always does this.

  • I once heard of a person with a West Virginia license plate getting pulled over in Arizona by a cop who did not think West Virginia was a state. But ya, this TSA agent was clearly just an idiot that doesn’t know a thing about geography.

    • Oh, believe me, there are people thousands of miles closer to West Virginia than Arizona who think it’s the western part of Virginia.

  • This is how social media makes the smallest shit into a major story. People are acting like she was detained. NBC kept playing it up last night in the commercials for the 11:00 news.
    Based on this account in the Post, it sounds like it was an awful experience:
    “Brandt says the agent yelled out to a supervisor, working in adjacent security line. Are D.C. licenses valid identification? Brandt says she could hear the response, ‘Yeah, we accept those.'”
    Oh the horrors! She should fly for free for life for suffering such an indignity.

    • + 100. I agree with using social media to call out truly bad govt behavior, but it seems like these days it’s a big competition to see who can be the fastest to tweet or post some small error that is immediately corrected. Like a sign with a spelling mistake that is taken down in 5 minutes, but not before someone snaps a photo, or this example where an employee checks with the supervisor right away, as she should. The social media fame seems to be far more important than actually correcting bad service.

    • Chilling. Is she OK?

    • THANK YOU. I get that people think Twitter is the new news, but it’s really not. Not everything that goes viral via social media is newsworthy.

      NEWSFLASH: sometimes people make mistakes. Public humiliation is not the answer.

    • A similar thing happened to me today! I ordered a burrito at Chipotle and asked for avacado and the worker, who was new yelled back to her manager asking if they have to charge extra for the avacado. It held up the line for a minute. By having to wait in line for an extra 15 seconds, I suffered the same indignity as our poor flyer. All due to the inexcusable actions of an ignorant employee who never should have needed to ask her supervisor a question.

  • Is this really an issue about the statehood of the District? Perhaps the identification presented was one of the new DC cards. I am a bartender and the first time I was presented with the new license I thought it was fake because I was unaware of the change in appearance. Just saying…

    • This is what I thought of when I saw the headline. My guess is the agent did not recognize the new DC license. I have seen people get rejected at bars in Arlington because the bouncers were unaware of the ID change.

  • This reflects a much more disturbing problem than D.C.’s lack of congressional voting rights, and that is that people are morons.

    • The line that “DC residents are US citizens” is a bit troubling, I’d hope the head of TSA would have a better grasp on the difference between residency and citizenship.

  • The new DC license has security features that make it unusual, including black and white photos. If she had one of the very new licenses, that may have been the problem.

    I’ve had odder problems–my US govt ID being identified as not official. This was after every agency, including TSA was well into migrating to these.

  • I’ve flown about 200 times in the last 5 years and shown my DC license for the vast majority of those flights. Half of those times were at National, Dulles or BWI so I would expect that the TSA agents would know to accept a DC license. But the other half have been all over the country. I’ve dealt with some seriously incompetent TSA agents all over, but you know how many times I’ve been hassled about my DC license? None. I’ve gotten comments like “Hey, I was just in DC” or “DC… cool.,” even “boo Redskins” but never a question about the acceptability of my license. So I don’t think this is some systemic problem, just — as was said above — an education failure on the part of one person. They agent is probably catching a ton of flack from coworkers right now, which seems punishment enough.

    • I travel almost as much as you and haven’t ever had an issue. However, during the sequester, I had an agent toss my ID on the floor stating that he hated the government. As if everyone holding a DC ID is somehow related to the shut down. I was not amused but didn’t cause a stink because it was a tiny regional airport where you had to exit security to get food and I wasn’t 100% sure that I might not want to leave the secure area for snack.

  • This is being blown way out of proportion. The agent merely checked with his supervisor if a DC license was valid before letting the person through. The 15-second delay had no real impact on this person other than an opportunity for a funny tweet.

    Yes, the TSA agent was ignorant, but he didn’t DENY her access. Let’s move on to the next story, shall we?

  • tonyr

    I live on N ST NW and more often than not when dealing with call center people (FedEx, Banks etc.) when they read my address they assume that it’s NORTH ST. The first few times I asked if they liked Bruce and the East Street Band, but after getting crickets I gave up. They beat me into submission.

    • My wife works on N Street and the same thing happens to her all the time, even from family members who should know better.

      • I am often asked to spell the name of my letter street, which leads to no end of who’s-on-first conversations.

  • tonyr

    There was also the case back in ’94 when they were selling tickets to the FIFA World cup; the US agents were only allowed to sell to US-based customers. Someone calling from New Mexico was told to contact the Mexican FA. When he complained and spoke to a supervisor he was told “New Mexico, Old Mexico, I don’t care you ain’t getting any tickets from us”

  • It’s ridiculous that a member of congress got involved in this..

  • “…to remind them that D.C. residents are American citizens…”

    Nope. Residents and citizens are not interchangeable, no matter where you are in the world.

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