Aug 12 2007

DHS proposes to require both ID papers and passes for all air travel

In a series of recent publications in the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security is proposing a comprehensive new system of surveillance and, perhaps more important, control of both domestic and international travelers.

The proposed new rules, which are currently open for public comments, would require that:

  1. All would-be international travellers to or from the USA (even US citizens crossing the U.S.-Canada border on foot) would have to have government-issued ID credentials
  2. All would-be passengers on international or domestic flights to, from, over, via, or within the U.S. would have to have both government-issued ID credentials and explicit case-by-case prior permission from the DHS to the airline to allow each passenger to board a plane.

The proposed rules would enforce the requirements for papers and permits through default provisions that would:

  1. Require all air travellers to show their papers (“government-issued photo ID”) to airline staff on request of the DHS, under penalty of denial of transportation.
  2. Forbid any airline from issuing a boarding pass to anyone, or allowing them to baord a plane, unless and until the airline received individual permission (a “cleared message”) authorizing that airline to allow that specific person on that specific flight.

The “Notices of Proposed Rulemaking” (NPRM) and Privacy (invasion) Act “System of Records Notices (SORNs) dismiss the right ot travel out of hand, and ignore provisions of international law, the Bill of Rights, and Federal law recognizing a right to free domestic and international movement and a “public right of transit” by air, requiring airlines to operate as “common carriers” and transport all passengers paying the fare in their published tariff, and requiring the DHS itself to condider these rights in its rulemaking.

If you haven’t gotten the proper papers, you won’t be allowed even to leave the country, much less to return home. If the government doesn’t choose to give the airline permission for any particular trip you want to take, you won’t be allowed to get on a plane. And any time any airline employee or agent says, “Papers, please!”, you’ll have to produce them for their private inspection, copying, and use for whatever purposes they want.
Among other problems, this amounts to a general order subjecting travelers to private searches, and allowing the private searchers to use any information obtained from those searches for their own commercial or other purposes. Since it is impossible to tell who is, and who is not, actually authorized to act on behalf of the government or to whom an airline has delegated its work, the proposed rules would effectively subject travelers to compulsory search by anyone in any airport claiming (unverifiably) to be an agent of an airline.