Privacy & Rights
Make Sure You Ask Big Brothers'
Permission Before You Fly
Last year, I wrote here that if Uncle Sam gets its way, we'd all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave - or re-enter - the United States.
Now, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has proposed a similar system for travel on commercial airlines WITHIN the United States. Both systems will come into effect Feb. 19, 2008.
Under the TSA's "Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) initiative," you'll need to obtain permission from the U.S. government to travel on any commercial airliner or ship that goes to or from the United States. You won't receive your boarding pass until you are cleared by APIS. You'll also need permission to travel through the United States (e.g., if you're changing planes at a U.S. airport on a trip between two foreign countries). It doesn't matter if you're a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Everyone will need permission to enter - or leave - the United States.
Then, on Aug. 23, 2007, the TSA issued proposed regulations for its "Secure Flight" program. The TSA wants commercial airlines to submit passenger information through a single DHS portal for both the Secure Flight and APIS programs. This would result in one DHS system responsible for watch list matching for all aviation passengers.
Naturally, the entire process - for both domestic and international travel - will occur in total secrecy. If you're denied permission to travel, you won't be able to appeal the decision to any court. Your only recourse will be through the TSA bureaucracy. Essentially, you'll be reduced to pleading with the TSA to say something like, "pretty please, give me a boarding pass."
What this amounts to is essentially a reprise of the infamous "internal passport" system in effect in the former Soviet Union. In 1933, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin introduced "internal passports" that prohibited Soviet citizens from leaving their place of residence without permission. Over time, the internal passport became the prime instrument of Soviet oppression over its citizens.
It's bad enough needing to ask Uncle Sam for permission to leave the United States, and to reenter it. But an internal passport is a blueprint for totalitarianism.
If you don't like the idea of having to obtain permission from Uncle Sam to travel domestically, you have until Oct. 22, 2007 to submit written comments to TSA for consideration before the final rule is issued. To do so, go to the "Federal e-Rulemaking Portal" at www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for submitting comments. Submissions must include docket number "TSA-2007-28572."