Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines

“And my concern, David, is several.”

-George W. Bush, to NBC’s David Gregory, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2007

Good ‘ol GW was kind enough, prior to starting WWIII, to grant me express service at airports nationwide. That’ll be helpful when the time comes to escape.

Five weeks ago, I applied for the controversial CLEAR registered traveler program. In a nutshell, I am now able to use exclusive check-in and security lines at select airports nationwide, which should cut my time to gate by at least 80%. This is particularly valuable at San Jose International, where the single-file lines of 300-400 people can wrap in up through three floors of parking levels. I kid you not. The dedicated CLEAR lane allows me to laugh like a smug jerk, side-step the line, and walk through security (with shoes on, I might add) in five minutes or less.


So what’s the catch?

To join this little club, you need to submit to a “Security Threat Assessment” — an extensive background check through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including registering biometric information such as iris scans and multiple finger prints…

Evil politicians, would you like to track me worldwide so I can never escape your malevolent grasp? Here you go!

That’s been the universal fear, and it took me a while to overcome it. I decided to take the plunge for a few reasons:

1) They’re technically not legally permitted to track you (I know, I know. I don’t believe that stops them either)

2) I’ve already had my finger prints and irises scanned dozens of times in other countries and upon returning to the US.

3) If… ahem… WHEN the Federales really want your biometric data, they’ll simply make it mandatory when you renew your car registration or check in for your next flight. It’ll sound something like this: “Security threat levels have been raised to SUPER RAINBOW FLOURESCENT PURPLE, so we’ll need to ask you for an iris scan and finger print.” There will be no vetoing this, as our president has no need for things like voting.

I’m happy to be a member of Gattica. Why? Because I already am, and I would suggest that — if you use normal health insurance and travel via airplane even the least bit — you are as well. If I’m going to be a under the watchful eye of the Patriot Act, I’m damn well going to accept it and use it to skip airport lines.

I’ll close this little rant with an illustration of what I hope to avoid in the future. Not more than six months ago, I returned from celebrating the completion of my book and the World Cup in Buenos Aires. Here’s the image: I have blue hair (Argentina celeste), a white collared shirt with wife beater undershirt from tango, black slacks, and a passport that looks like something out of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” This qualifies me immediately for “drug dealer of the airport” nomination. To make matters worse, a package of yerba mate tea leaves had burst while packing, so I had put it in a ziploc bag and forgot the identifying label.


“Oh… this? Nothing really. Just an enormous bag of marijuana…”

Upon arrival in Houston International Airport, I was swiftly carted off to an interrogation section, where “Sayid” held a lovely conversation with me something like this:

“So, Mr. Ferriss, what were you doing in Argentina?”

“Just vacation.”

“A two-month vacation?”


“And what do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“What have you written?”

“Well, I actually just finished my first book, and it’s coming out in April.”

“So, you haven’t made any income from it?”

“Not really.”

“So, what do you do for income, then?”

“I also own a pharmaceutical design firm and a sports nutrition company, but they’re virtual, so I don’t need to be in the US for them.”

[loooooooong pause]

“Mr. Ferriss, you just gave me two completely different answers. I’m going to ask you again: what do you do?”

This continued for more than an hour, with Sayid trying to Jedi mind trick me into contradicting myself by asking the same questions over and over and over again. The lessons here? One: Don’t dye your hair blue, carry a huge bag of look-a-like marijuana, and tell them you’re in a virtual pharma company that allows you to travel to South America. Two: Consider getting a CLEAR card so you can bounce it off Sayid’s forehead the second time he asks you what you do.

More to come as I test this card out and see how far I can push it.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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25 Replies to “Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines”

  1. I have the clear card in Orlando, and the first time I used it I was able to avoid a “Space Mountain” size security line.

    It’s a great part of my Friction-Free Travel program.

    Anybody who likes Lifestyle Design will aprreciate this.

    Step 1: arrives at my house the day before a trip to pick up my luggage and deliver it straight to wherever I’m going.

    Step 2: Print boarding pass ahead of time.

    Step 3: Valet park at the Hyatt Hotel attached to the airport.

    Step 4: 10 paces to the elevator. Up one level. 12 paces to the Clear Lane…straight through security. elapsed time 6 minutes.

    Step 5: Board and fly first-class to wherever I’m going.

    Step 6: Bypass baggage claim, head straight to limo and hotel.

    Step 7: Check in at hotel. “oh..Mr Jackson, you’ve got a package…would you like us to bring it up to your room?”

    Friction-Free Travel.

  2. Oh man, you’re a crack up. That Sayid story had me laughing out loud. My wife came in from the other room to see what I was laughing about and asked me who’s blog I was reading. I told her you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Carry on, Tim, Carry on.

  3. James, I’m glad you liked it! Dean, nice recommendations. I find that the hotel parking approach, even if not a guest, can be a real time-saver. The valet charges sometimes reset, meaning that the max charge can be $12-30, as opposed to $30 per day at San Jose Mineta. “Friction-free” travel is something to aspire to. I’d be curious to know if you pay retail for first-class or use free upgrades, points, or other tools.

    Thanks for the comments!


  4. Glad you like the “Friction-Free” idea. I mostly pay retail for domestic business trips and use American Express points for International, and personal trips…

  5. Having just returned from a trip to Disneyworld, traveling with two kids, I can totally appreciate “friction-free travel!”

  6. Hi Tim

    Welcome to 1984, the first round, Its called going along to get along. That card is the smoother, the real aim is for that little chip to be injected with all health shots as mandertory. Second round, sorry sir the borders are closed untill further notice. Third round, digital control of your psycological and physical functions via satelite to the chip under your skin anywhere worldwide.

    Your right about the TV and Newspapers, I stopped 8 years ago, saw it coming then as they laughed at my protestations. Dumbed down America is lost, the NWO has already started.

    There are two pills, the red one and the Blue one…


  7. Tim,

    you really are my new hero. As an architect, there are only so many professional tricks and side-steps from your book I can use…but there are enough to make me giddy with excitement.

    You are already improving the quality of my time, and perhaps my travel, as well(!?).

    Thanks for being so very stellar (and sharing it with the rest of us!)


  8. hmm. just returned from london where the airport queues are really bad. i sort of hoped that will become better ona day but seeing things like Clear popping up i less and less think so. i am not sure i would buy your book but judging from the excerpts is seems useable (i found it when searching fot Branston pickle – a tasty english relish – and the webshop suggested other pickles and your book. funny)

  9. i was stopped at Singapore airport.

    apparently the morons at LAX had taped an I-94 to my passport picture page and there was still a bit of cellotape stuck to the picture.

    the female at singapore airport thought my passport was tampered with.

    So i was made to wait for 45 mins. I didn’t help that I “wondered off” to use the rest room and that i got into a shouting match when they wouldn’t tell me the reason I was detained either.

    Eventually I squatted down on the floor and created a bit of a scene and they eventually let me go. I was on vacation, i can afford to be a pain in the neck!

    But I went through the stupid what do you do and where do you live routine.

  10. Tim,

    A very interesting and timely post! I have just been to Boston from the UK and the security lines were rather large – I am liking the look of that “magic” card! It would be even better if it would allow you to not take your laptop out of your bag. I was in Boston again last May and had a brand new MacBook Pro (my pride and joy). So, what did the lobotomised security fool do? Bounce it on a nice metal service.

    I was not the least impressed. In fact I was fUmiNg!!! I went and complained to a so called supervisor, who did not take kindly calling his member of staff a young punk. It was hopeless. They were not listening and seemed to conduct themselves in a manner far from any form of civility or good customer service.

    It reminded me of a good friend who is not keen on America, who went through customs in a rather risky manner. When asked what he was doing in the US, ie. business or pleasure, he calmly replied – “certainly not pleasure”.



    PS Tim, pointed your way by Dave Seah who I just met up with in Boston, a top guy!

  11. I know I can technically go to Guantanamo for saying this but when the real ID crap starts happening (universal Id, biometric info etc…becomes mandatory) I’m gonna attach it (Univ.ID) to a rock/brick and throw it into GDubya’s face if he ever visits Fairfield, CA 🙂

    HABEAS CORPUS FOREVER!!!!!!! lol…no seriously screw GDubya, and screw his brother too…RON PAUL FOR PRES. 2008!!!!!

  12. The security folks remind me of a phrase from Robert Heinlein: (I’m paraphrasing here)

    Civil Servant is equal to Civil Master.

    Last year my son wanted to see the Statue of ‘Jeopardy’ so using my rewards points I scored us some cheap tickets from NC to Newark; and 3 days in a nice hotel in Jersey City for FREE – and just a quick subway ride into NYC.

    Well starting off was a pain when going through security screening at RDU – the security guy on the lower level cleared my 6 year old son’s bottle of apple juice and gave me a note. We got to the metal detectors and they yanked his backpack open to grab the bottle of apple juice. Three of them gathered ’round with the look of ‘Hey we just scored a key of enriched uranium’.

    I immediately gave them the note from their partner below and their response was to throw the note and the juice in the trash can. To which my son let out a blood curdling wail. Their response was to push us through the line and say= ‘You can buy another bottle inside’ Guess we were lucky and didn’t get yanked out of the line.

    What can you do – I sucked it up and moved on. Now I know what we can do – get the clear card!

    Thanks for a great post Tim.


  13. Great stuff, Tim.

    One thing I’m puzzled about regarding CLEAR, though. It says on the website ( that:

    “Clear members still proceed through metal detectors and x-ray machines operated and regulated by the Department of Homeland Security but other parts of the process are expedited.”

    Ummm… what am I missing? Aren’t the lines for the metal detectors and x-ray machines the things that take the longest time? I’m not sure where the time savings is if you still have to line up with Mr & Mrs Frazzled Tourist and their four howling children…


    Hi M!

    Here’s the key: you have to go through the metal detectors, but you don’t need to wait in line. They take you right to the front, hence the sometimes huge time savings.

    Cheers 🙂


  14. Sorry about your wallet, but glad it provided a reason to highlight this story since I did not catch it the first time around. I will apply for it.

    I have also prepared for random insane governmental changes. No matter Roe v. Wade, women can exercise their right to choose privately and cheaply at home with simple Vitamin C. I kid you not. Kinda takes the intensity out of the whole debate.

  15. Nevermind, guess I’m waiting ’til I move to San Mateo. Not only does Iowa lack a single professional sports team, we have no Clear Enrollment Locations.

    I do have deer roaming in my yard however. Sigh.

  16. To Raina:

    Be careful with the use of Vitamin C in an attempt to induce pregnancy termination. Some people may need excessively high doses to achieve the result, which can be dangerous to some people’s systems and it does not always work.

  17. This is all very interesting. I am in Washington, DC. and with each passing day I see progressively more invasions of our “rights and privacy”. It is only a matter of time and I concur with the posters who site that someday soon, it will be a “high priority color invisible spectrum threat alert level” and we all have to submit, willingly or otherwise to some sort of tracking implant.

  18. @ Stephanie

    I only meant to illustrate the point that we as individuals are not powerless to our governments’ whims. I was not speaking of specifics in any way, shape or form.

    While your cautionary note is certainly responsible and appreciated, I personally believe that such vague fears and warnings about “some people” most often serve to disempower and isolate people, rather than truly keep them safe.

    I choose to live courageously, and follow my own path. I genuinely believe that reality is maleable.

  19. $128 a year for card though. That’s pretty pricey. I don’t travel enough to make it worth it, yet. Even more since the Michigan airports don’t use it yet.

  20. great article. Shame though the company has shut down and the clear card is no longer in use it was actually a really great idea..

  21. I just checked, they restarted the company. There’s not much detail on the site though. Looks like they are still working on airport agreements and putting things together.