Dec 05 2006

DHS dismisses the right to travel

Rejecting the objections raised in comments by the Identity Project and others, the DHS Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all travelers between the USA and Canada, Mexico, or other countries in the Western Hemisphere, where passports weren’t previously required, will have to present current valid passports to enter or leave the USA by air or sea, effective January 23, 2007.

“Your papers, please!”

Orders applying the same requirement to travel by land across the U.S. borders will follow, no later than June 1, 2009.

In issuing its final rule and an updated (but still grossly inaccurate) assessment for the “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative”, the CBP summarily dismissed all of our objections based on international treaties and human rights laws protecting the freedom to travel:


One commenter stated that the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] is contrary to U.S. obligations under international human rights law, free trade agreements, and U.S. statutes, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Charter of the Organization of American States, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the NAFTA Implementation Act, because the rules restrict free movement of people in the Western Hemisphere.


By requiring a valid passport as an entry document, DHS and DOS are not denying U.S. or non-U.S. citizens the ability to travel to and from the United States.

So I guess they mean that as long as they give us permission to travel, they can impose whatever restrictions they feel like on how, when, or where we are allowed to travel, or what papers we need to show them in order to get their permission?

Dec 05 2006

Every traveler is a target

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has revealed the exisitence of an “Automated Targeting System” for all international travelers (and some domestic travelers whose reservations are linked with anyone traveling internationally, as well as other people identified in reservation records) that collects information about travelers including their complete travel reservations, assigns each person a “risk assessment” score each time they cross the U.S. border, and stores these secret dossiers for 40 years.

The DHS claims the right to “share” this information with local, state, and Federal agencies and foreign governments, but won’t allow you to see your own dossier or find out what score they have given you, whether you are a target, or any of the information on which they have based your score.

The database will be used for “targeting”. The DHS doesn’t say what will happen to you if your lifetime travel score makes you one of their targets, but presumably it will be one of the factors the DHS will use to decide whether to give you permission to travel.

The Identity Project has filed comments with the DHS, objecting to this proposal. Among other things, we’ve pointed out that Congress has expressly forbidden the DHS from spending a penny on any system like this to assign risk scores to airline passengers, and that the Privacy Act forbids any Federal agency form collecting information abotu how we exercise rights protected by the First Amendment — like our right to travel — except as expressly directed by Congress.