Sunday, 15 October 2006

Permission to travel

Should you have to ask for permission from the government before you are allowed to get on a plane or cruise ship? (“Mother, may I?”)

The USA Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed that airlines cruise lines, and operators of all other ships and planes — including charter flights, air taxis, fishing vessels, etc. — be required to get individual permission (“clearance”) from the DHS for each passenger on all flights or ocean voyages to, from, or via the USA. Unless the answer is “Yes” — if the answer is “no” or “maybe”, or if the DHS doesn’t answer at all — the airline wouldn’t be allowed to give you a boarding pass, or let you or your luggage on the plane.

I filed comments this week with the DHS on behalf of the Identity Project, the World Privacy Forum, and activist entrepreneur John Gilmore, objecting to this proposal as a violation of international human rights, First Amendment rights, and privacy and government accountability laws.

This is the third identification-related “rulemaking” in the last month and a half in which the DHS has proposed to restrict the right to travel. I’ve worked with the Identity Project to file formal objections to each of these proposals:

Airlines and cruise lines also objected to the international APIS proposal, but on grounds of cost and difficulty to implement rather than the rights of travellers. From the airlines’ comments, it’s clear that the DHS still doesn’t understand how airlines operate, and continues to base proposals like this on fundamentally erroneous assumptions about their procedures.

There’s no way to link directly to the comments. To view the entire docket, got to . Since comments have closed, check the box to search all documents instead of the default of only documents currently open for comment, then search for “USCBP-2005-0003”. As in all such regulatory proceedings, the agency (the DHS) is supposed to consider and respond to the public comments before it finalizes the proposed rules.

The consensus of airline comments is that the international APIS proposals are unworkable as written, would cost many times more than the billions of U.S. dollars the DHS estimated, would require expensive and disruptive systemwide schedule changes (especially with respect to connecting flights) and major reprogramming of departure control and reservations systems, and would take at least a year to implement, rather than the proposed six months.

Perhaps the most telling comments are those from the USA Department of Defense, which wants not merely military flights but also all flights operated by military contractors exempted from the DHS permission (“clearance”) system. I guess they don’t want their contractors to have any difficulty getting permission for a “rendition” flight if one of the people being delivered to another country for torture is on the no-fly list. The Pentagon also says the programming the DHS wants completed within six months will take the military at least one to two full years.

[Addendum, 5 November 2006: Welcome, Slashdotters and others. For those who are having trouble navigating the Web site, I’ve posted local copies of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the CBP Regulatory Assessement for the APIS proposal, as well as the Identity Project comments in response. Comments on this blog may be disabled temporarily due to Slashdot traffic. If your comment is rejected, e-mail it to me and I’ll post it manually once things calm down. Note also that the NPRM does not state when the proposed new APIS rule would be effective, contrary to some secondary and tertiary sources reporting this story. Keep watching the Federal Register for a notice of a final rule with an effective date.]

[Further addendum: On 23 August 2007, the DHS published a final rule putting the requirements for government-issued credentials and individualized prior permission for international flights into effect as of 19 February 2008. More here and in continuing coverage in this blog. Wendy Grossman explores the implications of the change in the default from “Yes” to “No”, and reports on her own request for her PNR data, in her “net.wars” column, The permission-based society .]

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 15 October 2006, 19:25 ( 7:25 PM)

I'm sure you are already aware of the proposed rules for the U.S. Passport card filed on the 16th. They are open for comment until Dec 18th under docket DOS-2006-0329. So any of your readers can go to the web site and comment on the use of RFID in the pass card.
I will have to wait to read these proposed rules because I just finished the one on the pass card. As the IT manager for a company that assists applicants with getting passports and visas, I have begun to look more in depth at the legislation. I enjoy the detail and thoroughness of your articles. It has reduced the time I spend looking for the information and allowed me to spend more time learning.

Posted by: Aaron Caplan, 18 October 2006, 16:45 ( 4:45 PM)

Requirement of a passport to enter BACK INTO your own country, is in fact saying that YOU are the foreigner in your own land.

What if they decide to REVOKE your passport while you are away?

Something wicked this way comes.

Posted by: Roger MacDonald, 18 October 2006, 18:25 ( 6:25 PM)


I can't find any link in your post to the relevant source (i.e. link to DHS). Care to provide it?
PS: Quite a few links to comments etc in PDF format don't seem to work...? Have they 'killed them of?'

Posted by: TimBuck2, 21 October 2006, 21:13 ( 9:13 PM)

TimBuck2 asks if I can provide a link to the DHS notice of proposed rulemaking (NORM). As I said in my article, "There's no way to link directly to the comments. To view the entire docket, got to . Since comments have closed, check the box to search all documents instead of the default of only documents currently open for comment, then search for 'USCBP-2005-0003'." The same is tue for the proposal itself: the Web site is set up so as not to permit direct links to any individual document. The NPRM is the first item in the docket. As noted in my comments, the NPRM is document USCBP-2005-0003-0003, and the DHS Regulatory Assessement is document USCBP-2005-0003-0005.

I don't know of any links that have been deliberately "killed off", but the Web site uses buggy browser-specific code. So if you have problems retrieving documents, try a different browser. (For example, it works for me in Firefox for Windows, but not in Opera for Windows.)

Web site archives are constantly being reorganized. For example, as I've mentioned previously, a major revision has broken most of the older links from my Web site to European Union official documents. if there's something specific you can find, please let me know and I'll try to track it down and send you a copy and/or update the link, if possible.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 22 October 2006, 11:17 (11:17 AM)

Thanks for the reply - I have got the following link for you:
This should work for the time being - please try and let me know...

Posted by: TimBuck2, 22 October 2006, 19:08 ( 7:08 PM)

Oh, shit. Why is my country the USA becoming a fascist Orwellian nightmare? I am so sad to read about this ugly development. I DESPISE the Department of "Homeland" Security! Only fascist assholes like bush/cheney could come up with such a Nazi-esque name for a department which totally reminds me of the SS of Nazi Germany. I can barely bring myself to read the news anymore...our federal government is spiraling out of control, becoming a global pariah and monster. Now, we need to beg permission to leave the country! Fucking great. On a related note has anybody else read about the Halliburton contract for building GIANT civilian detention centers in the Arizona desert, far away from population centers? Yes, it's true. Google it and you can read all about it. Wake up people: you country is becoming a fascist police already is one...and it's gonna get a whole lot worse in the coming years.

Posted by: Steve, 3 November 2006, 18:38 ( 6:38 PM)

I wonder how the corporate dirt that supports GWB will feel about losing a ton of money in revenue from this ill-concieved idea. The airline and travel industry is sure to lose billions from this nonsense.

Posted by: Craig, 4 November 2006, 16:15 ( 4:15 PM)

Lose Billions. Yes. Our billions. As usual. Any docs on exactly how DHS proposes staffing and infrastructure for handling the billions of flight requests per year that their "plan" requires? How to debug it? How to specify it's correctness of operation even? No?

I know the ID proposal is actually unworkable for the local DOT offices to handle. My birth certificate from the UK, required as one of the three forms of verifiable identification, is not available because AFAIK the country records building that kept it burnt down. The only copy extant is hidden away in the INS filing system (and has been "lost" once already) because they did not tell me I could give them a certified copy of it instead. I am not alone in this kind of situation, all first gen immigrants are.

Posted by: david1947, 5 November 2006, 18:23 ( 6:23 PM)

I think the point of this "mother may I" is to shift the power of the citizen (right to travel) to the state (privilege to travel).

It is not necessary to keep a huge bureaucracy as its not a safety measure and will not be implemented on the whole populace. It will be for selected political enemies such as protestors and therefore the majority of the population will not even know its happening.
Just like it was used in germany soviet union, china.

infact its already in place. the only difference is that a right to travel has been turned into a privilege. small power shift, huge implications.

Posted by: panicearly, 6 November 2006, 01:16 ( 1:16 AM)

My feeling is that it will be used to prohibit people from leaving the U.S. when the draft comes.

Unending war, growing poverty, diminishing natural resources, continued population growth competing for finite rsources, increasing pollution, corporate rule and no way to get away. That's the current path.

Posted by: el, 6 November 2006, 19:40 ( 7:40 PM)

Any update of this? Will the new makeup in Congress have any effect? Is anyone coordinating a campaign, legislative or otherwise, to put a stop to it?

Posted by: d.o., 15 November 2006, 06:34 ( 6:34 AM)

Has there been any update in this since November? Unfortunately, I don't see anything new on

Posted by: Yinepuhotep, 20 February 2007, 17:05 ( 5:05 PM)

Excellent article! Just what we needed to hear. I'm passing it along to my friends/family. Thanks very much, Bruce.

Posted by: inside77, 22 March 2007, 02:59 ( 2:59 AM)

corporate america owns the usa the senators and congressmen are bought and paid for with campaign contributions and clandestine perks. The courts are controlled by crooked lawyers who sell themselves to the highest bidder and the legeslature selects the crookedest and the govenor or president appoints them to put on black robes in an attempt to hornswaggle the people into believing that makes them thing we can do is escape to the jungles where corporate america is not the ruling predator he is here and elimninate it when it attempts to enter into the jungle.

Posted by: fastfreddie, 20 May 2007, 13:05 ( 1:05 PM)

Since most Americans don't hold passports (and seldom if ever leave the country), I imagine few people will lose sleep over this. But for the rest of us, this is just one more reason to get out before it is too late.

Posted by: Greenguy, 19 June 2007, 11:58 (11:58 AM)

Great article and blog !

Posted by: Anonymous, 29 August 2007, 06:58 ( 6:58 AM)

As Benjamin Franklin said: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." So welcome to the National Socialist States of America. Do you have your internal passport handy?

Posted by: D.M.Mitchell, 23 September 2007, 11:28 (11:28 AM)

Thanks for your time and energy. It's refreshing to see somone who is thoroughly excited.
Once again...thanks.

Posted by: Anonymous, 7 October 2007, 13:14 ( 1:14 PM)

Nice informative article. thanks for sharing and keep sharing such kind of articles, as these articles really helpful for experienced and new comers.

Posted by: Articles, 1 November 2007, 08:19 ( 8:19 AM)

I see now the only practical solution is to protest it. Why?

1.Biometric information is essentially 110% corruptible, dehumanizing, and has a 120% chance of being corrupted within the next 10 years.

2.I turned 18 so I could get rid of mommy and daddy


"U.S. forces in Iraq soon will be equipped with high-tech equipment that will let them process an Iraqi's biometric data in minutes and help American soldiers decide whether they should execute the person or not, according to its inventor.

"A war fighter needs to know one of three things: Do I let him go? Keep him? Or shoot him on the spot?" Pentagon weapons designer Anh Duong told the Washington Post for a feature on how this 47-year-old former Vietnamese refugee and mother of four rose to become a top U.S. bomb-maker.

Though Duong is best known for designing high-explosives used to destroy hardened targets, she also supervised the Joint Expeditionary Forensics Facilities project, known as a "lab in a box" for analyzing biometric data, such as iris scans and fingerprints, that have been collected on more than one million Iraqis."

Bound to go down in the hall of technologies that sound something like, "but we're just using it to...", "use will be very limited" and then ten years later it's spread everywhere and you have less freedom in your supermarket, when you drive, when you travel, when you get pulled over for speeding, when you apply for insurance, when you look like a hippie, when the man doesn't like your blog, christ, everything, it doesn't take a genius to see where tracking devices are going from their glorious beginning in the next 10 years.

Posted by: anonymous, 7 March 2009, 16:08 ( 4:08 PM)

I know this is an older article but it is interesting. If I recall correctly, the issue was put down and the proposed policy reversed and so many people commented and complained (good work!!).

Have you considered an update or did I just miss it on your site?

Considering the recent change in administration, it would be interesting to know what has and has not changed with DHS regarding travel by US citizens. Or is there now a Travel Czar? :)

Thanks, B.

Posted by: Anonymous, 22 August 2009, 19:04 ( 7:04 PM)

thanks for this post

Posted by: Anonymous, 7 October 2009, 12:53 (12:53 PM)

The United States is increasingly becoming paranoid and perhaps understandably so because of the 9/11 attacks. However in my personal opinion this is too much a hindrance and trouble for the majority of citizens who are law abiding. I think terrorists and criminals can be caught even without going to this level. What the government needs to do is not to punish its citizens more but for the government to become more efficient with the resources and information that is now in its hands. If you can remember it, the Senate committee investigating the 9/11 attacks found that the alarm bells are ringing already for the impending 9/11 attacks but that the appropriate government agencies are not exchanging information and coordinating with each other. So what the government needs is not more information but efficient use of current resources.

Posted by: Anonymous, 24 July 2010, 07:33 ( 7:33 AM)

As a resort owner in Mexico, I find the proposal scary from a business-owner in Mexico's stand-point. It would do nothing but encourage tourism within the US. Businesses in Mexico are already hurting and this would further drive down tourists from Canada and the US.

Posted by: Krystal, 25 July 2010, 12:08 (12:08 PM)

I dont' know if that proposal ever got off the ground
I have no problem with increased security, biometrics etc. but surely if implemented in that form it would make travel from and to the US less pleasant thereby decreasing tourism revenue significantly.

Posted by: Eamon Moriarty, 25 July 2010, 16:12 ( 4:12 PM)

Man, you got a point there,
but forget about it...
what is more important is who made your great
caricature on the top of the page??
it is brilliant!

Posted by: Amit, 26 July 2010, 12:06 (12:06 PM)

Hello Edward, the Australian Government has been investigating how to implement a citizen ID card for years, which I believe would be scanned at major travel points. There is/was a sustained privacy campaign against the card and it hasn't been implemented to date.

Posted by: Anonymous, 26 July 2010, 21:55 ( 9:55 PM)

As I pilot that flies internationally, I have been deeply involved in the evolution of this topic since this article was written. At first, the implementation of APIS and security measures, especially from smaller countries for flights into the US was cumbersome at best. But like most legislation, there procedures was eventually streamlined. Now APIS filing is second nature for any international flying pilot. The question that remains is: How effective is it? When major security breaches occur, clearly something in the system is still broken.

Posted by: Nick, 29 July 2010, 07:39 ( 7:39 AM)

Cruises really aren't opportunities for illegal immigrants. I understand the airport restrictions, but the cruise ship restrictions seem crazy to me - just my opinion.

Posted by: Dan Yates, 8 August 2010, 13:33 ( 1:33 PM)

Is it just me or is the US becoming more and more like the very ideals they fought against in decades gone by.
Pretty soon we'll all need the government's permission to withdraw our own money from banks.

Posted by: Anonymous, 5 September 2010, 08:40 ( 8:40 AM)

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Posted by: learn more at this link, 1 June 2016, 21:10 ( 9:10 PM)

less and less freedoms for normal people.

Posted by: Anonymous, 1 October 2018, 17:20 ( 5:20 PM)
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