Apr 29 2020

No cellphone? Not at address on your ID? Hawaii threatens arrests.

“Aloha!” Passengers arriving at Honolulu International Airport on April 28th are interrogated and their cellphones are tested. Photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

We’ve been puzzling over this press release issued April 24th by the Department of Transportation of the State of Hawaii, entitled, “Improved verification process implemented for airline passenger,” which begins as follows:

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) has implemented improved measures to verify incoming passenger information before they leave the airport to help ensure people are abiding by the traveler quarantine order. The enhanced process is underway at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and will begin statewide in the coming days.

We’ve read through the emergency proclamations by the Governor of Hawaii, and can’t find anything in the quarantine orders purporting to give authority to state officials to “verify passenger information.”

The press release threatens that anyone who arrives without  a working cellphone, charged, with service and coverage in the arrival area at the airport, will be arrested:

An airport representative will collect the two forms and begin verifying their information. First, they will call their mobile phone number to confirm it rings right in front of them. If it does not ring, the person may have listed inaccurate information and is asked to verify the number. If the person refuses to provide a phone number that can be answered on the spot, law enforcement is contacted and they are subject to citation and arrest.

We have no idea what the purported basis would be for arresting someone who isn’t carrying a cellphone, whose phone doesn’t have service in Hawaii (especially likely if they are arriving from another country), or whose cellphone battery has run down from watching  videos or playing games in airplane mode during a trans-oceanic flight.

But that’s not all:

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Apr 20 2020

COVID-19, the REAL-ID Act, and ID to fly

A month ago — in what seems like it was long ago and in a galaxy far, far, away, before the COVID-19 pandemic reduced air travel in the US by more than 95% —  the US Department of Homeland Security was stepping up its baseless threats to begin “enforcement” of the REAL-ID Act against airline passengers on October 1, 2020.

There’s been no change (yet) in the REAL-ID Act or the regulations for its implementation, despite proposals that remain pending in Congress.

Over the last month, though, President Trump, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, and the Transportation Security Administration have each issued formal or informal notices or statements about their intentions with respect to the REAL-ID Act and ID demands for air travel.

As of now, it appears that the DHS/TSA “ultimatum” to air travelers to obtain “compliant” ID cards or be denied passage through TSA and contractor checkpoints at airports will be postponed yet again, this time for another year, until October 1, 2021.

After that date, it appears that the TSA intends to continue to allow people to fly even if they don’t show ID at checkpoints, but only if it the TSA or its contractors thinks that they have been issued some compliant ID (even though they don’t have it with them).

Is this legal? No. Does this make any sense? No. But it’s what the TSA seems to saying it plans to propose. The TSA  is asking for comments on this proposal from the public through May 19, 2020.

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Apr 14 2020

Dare County wants to see your papers

Providing the rest of the USA with an object lesson in how not to react to a pandemic,  Dare County, North Carolina, has established checkpoints on all roads crossing the county borders, at which travelers must show their papers to enter the county.

Pursuant to a series of emergency declarations issued by the Dare County Board of Commissioners, law enforcement officers are demanding that each person seeking to enter the county show either a government-issued ID card with an address in Dare County, or both some other government-issued photo ID and a county-issued entry permit.

A Federal lawsuit has been filed, seeking to have this enjoined as unconstitutional (at least as applied to the named plaintiffs). But as discussed below, the lawsuit barely scratches the surface of the issues this raises.

Why is Dare County doing this? What’s wrong with this ID requirement? Is it legal?

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Apr 09 2020

The Port of Seattle shouldn’t collaborate in Federal surveillance of travelers

The Identity Project is one of thirty organizations that have issued a joint open letter  calling on the Port of Seattle Commission to reverse its decision to purchase and deploy facial recognition systems, in collaboration and sharing data with US Customs and Border Protection (and through CBP with an unknown  variety of other Federal, foreign, and private entities), to track travelers passing through the  Seattle-Tacoma International Airport:

We, the undersigned organizations dedicated to protecting people’s rights and civil liberties urge the Commission to reverse the decision authorizing the Port to work collaboratively with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to procure and implement facial recognition technology at SeaTac International Airport.

The Port of Seattle Commission:

  1. Has a choice to not collaborate with CBP.
  2. Should not facilitate the infrastructural expansion of powerful face surveillance technology.
  3. Should not facilitate CBP’s unauthorized surveillance of US citizens.
  4. Should abide by its professed principles by rejecting collaboration with CBP.

On March 10, 2020, Port Commissioners voted unanimously to collaborate with CBP in rolling out its facial recognition program, ignoring the many privacy, civil liberties, and community organizations that urged the Port to reject participation.

Instead of taking into account the serious constituent concerns about the Port participating in CBP’s unlawful mass collection of biometric data, Commissioners voted to authorize a $5.7 million Request for Proposal (RFP) to procure and implement a facial recognition system at SeaTac International Airport….

We urge you to reject collaboration in CBP’s face surveillance program and reverse the decision to
authorize the procurement of facial recognition systems.

The real motives of the members of the Port Commission in reneging on their professed principles and spending $5 million in Port funds to build an infrastructure of facial recognition surveillance into the new international terminal at Sea-Tac remain unclear.

But the reduction in demand for air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will delay any need for a new terminal for many months, gives the members of the Port Commission time to reconsider and reverse the hasty decision they made last month under CBP pressure.

Do you live, work, or travel in the Seattle area? Do you care about the right to travel? The Port of Seattle Commission needs to hear from you.

The Port Commission has suspended in-person meetings. It’s not clear when the Commission’s next public meeting will take place, or what means of public input or participation will be available. So if you want to be heard by the Commissioners, it’s best to e-mail them now.

If you’d like to join us and the other 29 allied organizations in this call for action, the ACLU of Washington state has a form on their Web site to send a customizable message to each of the members of the Port of Seattle Commission.

Apr 06 2020

Airline passenger data and COVID-19

The New York Times published a lengthy but deeply flawed report last week,  “Airlines Refused to Collect Passenger Data That Could Aid Coronavirus Fight.” Here’s the lede:

For 15 years, the U.S. government has been pressing airlines to prepare for a possible pandemic by collecting passengers’ contact information so that public-health authorities could track down people exposed to a contagious virus.

The airlines have repeatedly refused, even this month as the coronavirus proliferated across the United States. Now the country is paying a price.

The implication of both the headline and the article is that airlines “could” have collected and provided the government with the (additional) information it wants. But that isn’t true.

While the Times’ reporters interviewed multiple government sources, they failed to fact-check this allegation with any sources independent of airlines or the government. And they failed to mention — if they even realized, which they may not have — that this isn’t an isolated dispute, but part of a continuing saga that has been going on since 9/11.

The supposed basis for the government’s demands for airlines to collect and pass on more information about travelers has shifted from “security” to “health.” But what’s happening is just another chapter in a long-running story.

Understanding that story requires a deep dive into twenty years of history of airline and government collaboration and conflict over collection and use of data about travelers.

Here’s some of the factual and historical context that the Times overlooked:

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