Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chris Elliott: A "papers, please" society?

My fellow travel writer and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott has a thoughtful article in his blog today featuring my work with the Identity Project ( How close are we getting to a “papers please” society?:

America is edging closer to a “papers please” society, at least when it comes to travel….

TSA Pre-Check … represents the latest step toward what many TSA-watchers consider a “papers please” society, a darker version of America that before 9/11 only existed in the pages of dystopian novels.

It”s hardly the only threat to your travel freedom…. But Pre-Check is particularly problematic because of the perceived trade-off. The federal government is basically saying, “we’ll think you”re a little less dangerous if you tell us a little more about yourself.” But it doesn”t bother to define “dangerous” or tell us why the information will help it make that determination. We just have to trust it.

Not all of us do. Activist and fellow journalist Edward Hasbrouck has waged a lonely campaign to challenge national ID requirements. His website, Papers Please, is a must-read if you”re concerned about where these laws are taking the United States.

It isn”t too difficult to see where all this is going. But I have a few insights, courtesy of the 17 years I spent in Europe. I lived only a half-hour drive from what was called the “Iron Curtain” — a true “papers please” society. You could be stopped on the street and asked for ID, and if you didn”t comply, you could end up in very serious trouble and you might even disappear under mysterious circumstances. You “needed the government”s approval to travel”:/blog/archives/001861.html and if you wanted to leave the country, permission was rarely granted.

How far are we from living in such a country? As Pre-Check expands, civil liberties advocates would say we are moving closer. Too close.

I share their concern.

Thanks to Christopher Elliot for the endorsement, and for going public with his concerns.

[Update: Christopher’s column is repeated here in the Huffington Post.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 23 September 2012, 21:39 ( 9:39 PM)
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