• Original Reporting
  • Sources Cited
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
Sources Cited As a news piece, this article cites verifiable, third-party sources which have all been thoroughly fact-checked and deemed credible by the Newsroom in accordance with the Civil Constitution.
People move through airport security
People process through security at Denver International Airport on April 27, 2022. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

As Coloradans scurry through security checkpoints in airports across the country this summer, they may notice one consistent hiccup: their driver’s licenses being flagged.

That’s because the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has a glitch in its new security system that’s only affecting Colorado IDs.

“Our folks who manage the database are aware of this,” said Lorie Dankers, spokesperson for the TSA. 

Dankers said TSA couldn’t provide any specific detail about why their system has issues with Colorado IDs or when the issue would be resolved.

If a traveler’s license is flagged by a TSA machine, however, their boarding pass — along with a valid for of identification, like a driver’s license — is enough to be allowed through, she said.

“I think one thing is people in Colorado have falsely come to believe that it could prevent them from traveling, and that’s absolutely not the case,” she said. 

Dozens of Coloradans responded to social media posts from The Colorado Sun sharing their stories of Colorado IDs being denied, with many stating the issue has only happened at airports other than DIA. 

“It can take around five to eight attempts before the machine will finally accept my license. Each time they run it through the machine, it takes awhile for it to process and decide if it wants to accept it or not,” said Shawn Taylor, a Denver resident. “It’s a pain, especially when I’m running a little late. I also feel bad for the people waiting in line behind me.”

Several people also reported that TSA agents seem to expect the issue the moment they see a Colorado ID.

“The TSA personnel were nodding and chatting to themselves, ‘yep, a Colorado license, happens every time,’” said Denver resident Kim Konkel.

While some people said they only needed to show their boarding passes to enter the terminal, others reported more significant delays, such as being told to step aside for additional security measures or to return to their airline counter.

That’s what happened to Carla Donelson, a Littleton resident, when traveling back to Denver from Corpus Christi, Texas, with her 92-year-old father. After TSA couldn’t scan their IDs, they were denied entry, even after securing a new boarding pass, she said. They were told there was an issue with their IDs even though they hadn’t had any problems in their outbound Denver flight. 

“In the end, with our flight being called for boarding, they did some sort of manual override that allowed us to proceed through security so that we could run to make our flight,” Donelson said.

Mark Repsher, a Lafayette resident, has run into the issue several times as he travels once or twice per month for his job as an energy consultant.

Repsher, who has TSA precheck, has had his ID rejected in multiple cities other than Denver, including Chicago and Detroit, he said. Most of the time, he simply shows his boarding pass to the agent but in one instance, he was asked to present his passport. Several other travelers also reported being asked to present their passports, even for domestic flights, when their ID wouldn’t scan. 

“It’s usually the TSA agent and myself kind of laughing because we both know what’s happening because it happens a lot,” Repsher said.

Passengers enter TSA security at DIA on October 27, 2021. (Jeremy Sparig, Special to the Colorado Sun)

The problem began when TSA introduced a new system called Credential Authentication Technology, or CAT, that allows travelers to only show their driver’s licenses when going through security checkpoints, rather than having to also show a boarding pass. Their system then checks the ID with a database of ticketed travelers over that 24-hour period.

But the TSA database needs to be updated to allow for Colorado IDs, Dankers said. 

There are more than 2,000 CAT units in 223 airports nationwide, including in Denver International Airport.

“We are looking to integrate technology into our security processes,” she said. “The use of CAT, credential authentication technology, should be our primary way of verifying the identity of the traveler and their travel plans. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way.”

The Colorado Department of Revenue, which manages the state’s ID production, has been alerted to the issue, but says they have no reason to believe their technology is the problem. 

Thales, a French IT company, is the producer of Colorado IDs. That company purchased a smaller organization that previously made the IDs, called Gemalto. 

“We’ve gone through this process and we’ve found nothing on our end to suggest it’s our error,” said Daniel Carr with the Colorado Department of Revenue. “Everything is up to date and functioning as it’s supposed to.”

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter in Douglas County for Colorado Community Media. She has won awards for her reporting and photography. Elliott graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in editorial journalism and minors in both business and Spanish. She is also an avid rock climber, snowboarder and hiker. Twitter: @ElliottWenzler