Jun 30 2011

TSA calls for more “ID-based screening” — but won’t say if ID will be required

At a panel at the 2011 Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference earlier this month, TSA Special Counselor and FOIA Appeals Officer Kimberly Walton (the same person who has been stonewalling our pending FOIA appeals), made explicit that the TSA plans more “identity-based screening” (i.e. profiling).

But any “screening” based on identity requires, of course, that travelers be identified. And the TSA — knowing it has no legal authority to compel travelers to identify themselves, produce evidence of their identity, or answer questions —  has consistently claimed in court cases such as Gilmore v. Gonzales and New Mexico v. Mocek that travelers are not required to produce any evidence of their identity.

So is the TSA planning to seek new statutory authority (or start claiming it already has it) to require travelers to identify themselves, or to deny passage to those who decline to do so?

We asked Walton directly, starting at 5:45 of the video here.  Walton said she “wasn’t the person to answer that”, but didn’t say who (if anyone) was.

If the TSA is reading this (and we know they are), we’d welcome an answer. We won’t hold our breath, though.

Once again, the TSA is launching a major expansion of its claimed authority over the traveling public, seemingly without either knowing or carrying whether it has any legal basis for the power it seeks to exercise over us.

The video of the panel on the TSA (most of which focused on groping and virtual strip-searches at TSA checkpoints) starts here; complete CFP 2011 video coverage is here.

Jun 30 2011

Our arguments for disclosure of DHS travel surveillance records

Our main briefs were filed last Friday in the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case of Hasbrouck v. CBP.

In this case, we are seeking to compel U.S. Customs and Border Protection (one of the components of the DHS) to disclose:

  1. The CBP/DHS “travel history” dossier  about Mr. Hasbrouck, compiled from airline reservations (PNRs) and other commercial and government data and contained in the (illegal) CBP “Automated Targeting System” (ATS), including “risk assessments” of Mr. Hasbrouck and the rules used to determine those risk assessments;
  2. An “accounting of disclosures”, as required by the Privacy Act, showing which other government agencies or other third parties have been given access to which of this data, and when; and
  3. General information about how ATS data is indexed and retrieved.

Our main argument for summary judgment in our favor (and in opposition to CBP’s cross-motion) is contained in our proposed order, supporting brief, and Mr. Hasbrouck’s supporting declaration. Additional supporting declarations and exhibits are linked here.  Following reply briefs to be filed next month by each side, oral argument is scheduled for August 25th in Federal District Court in San Francisco.

Jun 07 2011

DHS moves to dismiss our Privacy Act lawsuit

Late last Friday, June 3rd, the U.S. government filed a motion for summary judgment against us in our Privacy Act and FOIA lawsuit for records from the government’s files of records of our international travels.  The government’s motion and supporting affidavits and exhibits are posted here.

We won’t try to give a detailed response right now. Our answer to the government’s motion, and our own motion for summary judgment, are due to be filed with the court by June 24th. Reply briefs for each side will follow, and then oral argument is scheduled for August 25, 2011 [note change from originally scheduled date], in San Francisco.

We’ve posted the government’s pleadings for informational purposes, but they should not be accepted as accurately representing either the facts or the law. As we expected, the government’s argument is a mix of lies about the facts and claims that nobody — not even a U.S. citizen — has any rights under the Privacy Act to see what’s in the DHS dossier about their travels, or how it is used.

We look forward to seeing the DHS in court on August 25th.

Jun 03 2011

U.S. Embassy confiscates citizen’s passport so he can’t come home

In a new twist on the control of movement through control of issuance of ID credentials, the Associated Press reports that a U.S. citizen has been trapped in Kuwait after the local U.S. Embassy summarily confiscated his passport:

Aziz Nouhaili, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Morocco, has been trying for nearly four months to get home from Kuwait, where he worked for several years as a military contractor…. Kuwaiti officials have made clear they will allow Nouhaili to leave only if he has a valid U.S. passport.

Kuwait is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides in its Article 12 that, “Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own,” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Regardless of his citizenship or whether he has any passport, Mr. Nouhali is entitled by black-letter international treaty law, expressly acceded to by the Kuwaiti monarchy, to leave Kuwait.

As long as Mr. Nouhali is a U.S. citizen (which appears to be undisputed, at least as of now), the proper course of action for the U.S. State Department, if Kuwait refuses to allow Mr. Nouhali to leave, is a formal diplomatic protest by the U.S. to the Kuwaiti government, followed by a formal complaint to the U.N. Human Right Committee if Kuwait persists in denying Mr. Nouhali’s right to leave.

Mr. Nouhali’s treatment also highlights the significance of State Department or DHS passport issuance procedures and decisions to deny, withhold, or confiscate a passport as tantamount to decisions on whether to permit individual citizens to exercise their right to travel.

Instead of helping Mr. Nouhali to exercise his rights as a U.S. citizen, however, the U.S. government is helping to deny him his rights. A  press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says that: Read More