During today’s markup by the Senate Judiciary Committee of S.1692, the “USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009” (note that there is no “USA PATRIOT Repeal Act”), Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced a truly bizarre and obviously ill-considered amendment to criminalize “Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, false travel documents, authentication features, and information.”
The amendment would amend 18 U.S. 1028 to add tickets and boarding passes for airlines or any form of mass transportation, making it a Federal felony knowlingly to “prduce”, “transfer”, traffic in, possess with intent to use, etc.:
a document issued for the use of a particular, identified individual and of a type intended or commonly accepted for the purposes of passage on a commercial aircraft or mass transportation vehicle, including a ticket or boarding pass, that —
(A) was not issued by or under the authority of a commercial airline or mass transportation provider, but appears to be issued by or under the authority of a commercial airline or mass transportation provider; or
(B) was issued by or under the authority of a commercial airline or mass transportation provider, and was subsequently altered for purposes of deceit.
The ostensible intent is apparently to stop the use of Photoshopped (or “gimped”?) boarding passes, which would be a pointless exercise anyway. But as written, Kyl’s amendment would in a far wider range of activity, such as mere possession of a ticket issued by a travel agent whose appointment had been revoked by the airline. The main beneficiaries would be airlines and mass transit agencies, who would find what are currently either torts or minor state crimes by their customers converted into serious Federal felonies. A first offense of altering the expiration time on city bus transfers for a family of five people, or possession of five subway-token slugs, for example, would be punishable by up to 15 years in Federal prison.
The best-known of the print-your-own boarding pass generators was published by Christopher Soghoian, who was investigated by the FBI but charged with no crime, and who now works for the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in its division of privacy and identity protection. Soghoian reports from today’s markup session that presiding Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy ruled Kyl’s amendment out of order as not germane to the USA PATRIOT Act bill under consideration, after which Kyl said he would introduce it as a separate bill.