Wednesday, 14 July 2021

European Commission rejects my complaint against CRSs

Just over four years after finally agreeing to consider my complaint that the lack of passwords and lack of logs of access to Passenger Name Records (PNRs) constitutes a violation of the privacy and data protection provisions (currently under review) of the European Union’s Code of Conduct for Computerized Reservations Systems (CRSs), the European Commission has decided to reject my complaint without any investigation of the facts.

Continue reading "European Commission rejects my complaint against CRSs"
Link | Posted by Edward, 14 July 2021, 13:48 ( 1:48 PM) | Comments (0)

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Air travel, global warming, and the COVID-19 pandemic

I have a long feature today in the Sierra Club’s online magazine, SIERRA, on air travel, global warming, and the COVID-19 pandemic:

The Biden Administration Wants to “Build Back Better” — What Could That Mean for Air Travel?

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced air travel and its climate footprint to about 10 percent compared to 2019, and environmentalists saw a window of opportunity. But as of this summer, air travel is “recovering” rapidly. Aviation is a significant contributor to global warming. Our planet can ill afford for us to keep building on the same air transportation system. And the problem extends beyond carbon—planes’ nitrogen oxide, sulphate aerosols, and water vapor emissions create contrails and cirrus clouds, potentially doubling their contributions to the climate catastrophe.

What would a policy solution even look like?

[Read more on the SIERRA Web site.]

Link | Posted by Edward, 26 June 2021, 05:47 ( 5:47 AM) | Comments (1)

Letters to the Boston Globe: "Let's run Selective Service up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes"


[Edward Hasbrouck outside the Federal courthouse in Post Office Square, Boston, before his sentencing for refusal to register with the Selective Service System, 14 January 1983. Photo by Tom Landers, The Boston Globe, via Getty Images]

The Boston Globe devotes its letters page today to a selection of responses to Jeff Jacoby’s column last Sunday, Women don’t register for the draft, and men shouldn’t either.

The letters to the Globe published today include one from me (as below, illustrated with a photo from the Globe archives of me outside the old Federal courthouse in Post Office Square in Boston before being sentenced for refusing to register for the draft on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day — not yet then a Federal holiday — in 1983) and one from another unrepentant 1980s draft registration resister, Stuart M. Wax.

(For why young men continue to resist draft registration today, and why it remains important for older allies of peace and freedom to support them, see Ethan Foote’s eloquent essay, Draft Registration Demands Resistance, recently published on Waging Nonviolence and on my Web site.)

While some of the other letters published by the Globe today support conscription in the form of a draft or compulsory national service, thay all made clear that the real debate about the draft and draft registration is about military conscription, not gender equality.

Continue reading "Letters to the Boston Globe: "Let's run Selective Service up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes""
Link | Posted by Edward, 26 June 2021, 05:47 ( 5:47 AM) | Comments (0)

Friday, 11 June 2021

Draft registration requirement for Federal student aid to be ended soon

The requirement for men age 18 and older to have registered with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft in order to be eligible for Federal student aid including Federally-guaranteed private student loans will be phased out over the next two months, according to an official letter to college and university financial administrators published today by the U.S. Department of Education.

Continue reading "Draft registration requirement for Federal student aid to be ended soon"
Link | Posted by Edward, 11 June 2021, 13:00 ( 1:00 PM) | Comments (0)

Monday, 7 June 2021

Supreme Court won't review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it has denied the petition for certiorari in the case of National Coalition For Men v. Selective Service System.

The Supreme Court’s action today leaves in effect the decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissing the complaint and the District Court judgement.

What has happened, and what does it mean for the future of Selective Service?

Continue reading "Supreme Court won't review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement"
Link | Posted by Edward, 7 June 2021, 08:27 ( 8:27 AM) | Comments (3)

Saturday, 24 April 2021

The international standard for "vaccination passports"

There continues to be a lot of talk about smartphone apps that would “prove” that you (or the person whose smartphone you borrowed or stole or hacked) have been vaccinated for COVID-19. I talked about the problems with these in an earlier article.

But what you need to know if you are once again thinking about international travel after you are vaccinated for COVID-19 is that (1) anyone crossing an international border or flying internationally in the foreseeable future is likely to have to show evidence of vaccination for COVID-19, and (2) there is currently one, and only one, international standard document — established by international treaty and regulations — for showing that you have been vaccinated for COVID-19 or any other disease.

This is not a smartphone app or digital passport (none of which are even close to international standardization or legal recognition) but the same document that has been used for this purpose for decades: the passport-sized World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination or “Yellow Book”.

The best way to be sure that you will be able to satisfy current and future vaccination requirements for international travel is to get your vaccinations recorded in one of these standard yellow books.

Most COVID-19 vaccination sites don’t have blank yellow books available, so get one before you your vaccination appointment. Blank yellow books are currently out of stock from the U.S. Government Printing Office, but have been available (quite legitimately) from third-party resellers on eBay, Amazon.com, and elsewhere. Even in the U.S., it’s fine to use the World Health Organization version if that’s easier to get a copy of than the U.S. version.

I got my COVID-19 vaccination shots entered in my yellow book without difficulty, once I presented my yellow book and explained that it was the international standard form of vaccination record. I also got the white card being used in the U.S. for COVID-19 vaccination records.

My partner had a similar experience. Ask politely, and be prepared for a short wait while they figure out what to do. Older health workers may remember the yellow book from when it was routinely used to record cholera and yellow fever vaccinations required for some international travel, but younger vaccination site workers may never have seen one before. My fellow travel writer Christopher Elliott also reported a similar experience.

Some countries will undoubtedly recognize the non-standard U.S. white card, but others may insist on the yellow book, especially if you don’t want to install their proprietary app on your smartphone. If there’s any possibility that you might want to travel internationally, get your vaccination recorded in your yellow book.

Link | Posted by Edward, 24 April 2021, 06:13 ( 6:13 AM) | Comments (3)

Monday, 22 February 2021

Why I'm suing the National Archives

Last night my attorney Kel McClanahan, Executive Director of the nonprofit National Security Counselors law firm, assisted by NSC intern Brendan Stautberg, filed a complaint on my behalf in Federal District Court in Washington against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), seeking a “declaratory judgment” that NARA is required to preserve and release to me and the public the records of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service which were transferred to NARA when the NCMNPS shut down in September 2020.

I’m extremely grateful to National Security Counselors for volunteering to take this case pro bono (I’m paying only for filing fees and other out-of-pocket expenses) and for their excellent work under a tight deadline (unlawfully) imposed by the National Archives through an ultimatum and threat of imminent destruction of the government records I have requested. They are a nonprofit law firm; if you’d like to help make it possible for them to offer pro bono services to journalists, researchers, and whistleblowers in cases like this, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

The filing of the complaint came just in time, since NARA had threatened to destroy these records today unless I sued them.

There’s detailed information about the lawsuit on a separate page of my Web site. But I thought I should post a few brief explanations here in my blog for my friends who may wonder what’s going on.

Why does an anarchist ever sue anyone? I’m not invoking the government to force someone else to do something. I’m invoking one of the government’s own internal mechanisms, the courts, to try to get the government itself to follow what it professes to be its own rules.

I don’t sue people lightly. In fact, I’ve never sued a person. The only other time I’ve initiated a lawsuit was, like this case, a lawsuit in Federal court against a Federal government agency, not a person. In 2010, represented pro bono by the nonprofit First Amendment Project, I sued a division of the Department of Homeland Security under the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act, to try to find out what records the DHS had about my international travel. While stalling my request, the DHS retroactively exempted its database of travel history files from the Privacy Act, and the court upheld the application of that exemption to a request I had made three years earlier. That’s the only time I’ve ever before been a party to civil litigation of any sort. I’ve been a criminal defendant, but that wasn’t by choice — it was the government’s decision to drag me into criminal court.

But why would anyone sue the National Archives? What are they doing wrong?

This case isn’t so much about what the National Archives are doing, but what they’re not doing: In this case, they aren’t preserving government records, and they aren’t making them available to the public. In other words, I’m suing to get the National Archives to do their job.

This case is not, lest there be any misunderstanding, about copyrighted works or private records obtained by the National Archives. I’m suing to get the National Archives to fulfill its core mission: preserving records of the government’s activities and making them available to the public to inform understanding and debate.

The records at issue — which the National Archives has in its possession and control, but has been trying to keep secret and has threatened to destroy — are records created by and for a Federal government agency, the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS), whose job was to conduct research and make recommendations to guide Congress, the President, and the courts. These records show what research the NCMNPS conducted or commissioned, what evidence and arguments it considered, and how it decided on its recommendations. The NCMNPS itself did its best to try to keep these records from ever becoming public, and designated them for immediate destruction when the NCMNPS shut down. But the duty of the National Archives, in accordance with the Federal Records Act and the Freedom Of Information Act, is to preserve these records and make them available to the public on request.

Congress, the Supreme Court, and the public are being asked to accept those recommendations as conclusionary, authoritative, and presumptively well-founded — but without knowing what, if any, research or evidence they were based on, or what arguments were or weren’t considered in the closed-door deliberations of the NCMNPS, with respect to which the only publicly available information comes from the incomplete responses to my FOIA requests. Many members of Congress want to use the recommendations of the NCMNPS as political cover to avoid public Congressional hearings and debate. But if Congress is going to “defer” to the NCMNPS for its decision, that makes public disclosure of the records of the still secret NCMNPS research and closed-door consultations with selectively invited lobbyists as important as those of Congress itself would be.

Don’t expect any more news about this case any time soon. I’ll post updates here, but Federal cases move slowly. It’s more likely that this lawsuit will result in changes in policies and procedures that will benefit other FOIA requesters, researchers, and members of the public in the future than that it will result in the release of additional NCMNPS records in time for them to be considered by Congress or the Supreme Court in their decision-making this year about women and the draft. But the reasons this lawsuit was necessary — the secrecy of the NCMNPS deliberations and the lack of public disclosure of the research, evidence, and arguments that do or don’t support the recommendations of the NCMNPS — underscore why Congress needs to hold its own full and fair hearings, especially on the issues including compliance and enforcement that the NCMNPS didn’t consider, and not take the NCMNPS report as a conclusionary excuse to avoid full public Congressional debate.

Link | Posted by Edward, 22 February 2021, 09:32 ( 9:32 AM) | Comments (0)

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Who leaked the changes to Sen. Ted Cruz's airline reservations?

After U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) changed his airline reservations to cut short a family vacation in Cancún, Mexico, United Airlines has reportedly launched an internal investigation into how the change to Sen. Cruz’s airline reservations became public.

Sen. Cruz made reservations for himself and his family for three nights at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cancún (US$309 per night per room plus tax), and bought tickets for whole family for flights on United Airlines from Houston to Cancún leaving Wednesday and returning today.

After he was spotted at the airport and on the plane to Cancún, Sen. Cruz changed his reservations to return to Houston on Thursday. Sen Cruz initially seemed to be claiming that this was his plan all along, to “escort” his wife and daughters to Cancún, and then leave them behind and return after just one night. But two reporters, first Edward Russell of the travel industry news site Skift and then Kris Van Cleave of CBS News, were able to confirm with unnamed “airline sources” that Sen. Cruz was originally booked to return from Cancún to Houston today (Saturday), but changed his reservations Thursday morning to return that day. [Update: Peter Alexander of NBC News also confirmed the changes to Sen. Cruz’s flights with an unnamed “source with knowledge of the situation” although not necessarily with the airline.]

Should we care? Actually, yes, regardless of what we think of Sen. Cruz and his actions.

I have nothing to add to the discussion about Sen. Cruz’s decision to fly away to Cancún with his family for a vacation at a luxury hotel on a tropical beach as soon as the airports in Houston re-opened after a two-day closure caused by an exceptionally severe winter storm that left many of his constituents throughout Texas without running water, electricity, or heat, and while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. My only trip to Cancún was for a travel blogging conference (although I stayed for a few more days after the conference) and it’s not a place I would choose to go for a vacation, although you may have different tastes, and Cancún is not entirely without redeeming merits.

But there’s an important lesson in the fact that so many people had access to Sen. Cruz’s reservations and the history of changes to those reservations. And if, as I expect, United Airlines is unable to identify the leaker(s), that will be even more significant.

Continue reading "Who leaked the changes to Sen. Ted Cruz's airline reservations?"
Link | Posted by Edward, 20 February 2021, 10:38 (10:38 AM) | Comments (4)

Saturday, 23 January 2021

"Advanced surveillance tech on the border poses dangers to both migrants and citizens."


[Larger image of no-fly flowchart; PDF with key to acronyms and color-coding; FAQ.]

Why Biden’s ‘Virtual’ Border Could Be Worse Than Trump’s Wall: Advanced surveillance tech on the border poses dangers to both migrants and citizens. (by Felipe de la Hoz, The Nation, 22 January 2021):

…Unlike a border wall, an advanced virtual “border” doesn’t just exist along the demarcation dividing countries. It extends hundreds of miles inland along the “Constitution-free zone” of enhanced Border Patrol authority. It’s in private property and along domestic roadways. It’s at airports, where the government is ready to roll out a facial recognition system with no age limit that includes travelers on domestic flights that never cross a border.

To an extent, these technologies’ ability to fade into the background can leave them relatively invisible to domestic audiences — until suddenly they’re not. Take the no-fly list, which is more like an unreviewable no-fly algorithm. Every time someone tries to check in for a flight, their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which makes real-time decisions about whether they’re allowed to board the plane or not. If rejected, you are given no reasoning, shown no evidence, given no process by which this decision was reached, and have few avenues for redress. Even the specific criteria used for such determinations is secret. It’s a tool that many Americans might agree with on principle, but it has expanded into a tool of wanton state power without any public discussion. “People are shocked to the point of near disbelief when you tell them this is happening. It doesn’t occur to them that there’s an invisible checkpoint at the airport,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant with the Identity Project and writer at the affiliated Papers, Please! blog.

Hasbrouck believes the principles applied at airports will be extended to the physical border. He said DHS officials “complain constantly and explicitly about the fact that, unlike at the airport, where we know who’s getting on the plane before they get on the plane, at the land border anybody can just show up. They regard this as a horrible defect that they’re working assiduously to rectify.” The language in the immigration bill fact sheet points in the direction of technological processing of migrants in a way that will limit their ability to just show up….

Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s strategy has been to push the border south under the often-correct assumption that for the American public out of sight means out of mind. The squalid refugee camps created by the Migrant Protection Protocols program are just across the border, and have gotten a fraction of the attention of other border abuses. For an administration hoping to sidestep domestic controversy over the treatment of desperate migrants while still set on controlling their flow and entry, the use of technology to develop what Hasbrouck called a “kind of pre-approval that externalizes and moves the borders further and further away” might seem like the best option….

Whatever its direction, there will likely be an expansion of immigration and border technology, and it will involve a slew of private actors. In 2011, Obama infamously canceled a years-long “high-tech border fence” project that had accomplished little except provide $1 billion in taxpayer funds to Boeing. Yet technological capabilities have improved dramatically since then, and the vision of a pervasive and interconnected travel surveillance apparatus is now more realizable. Entire companies have formed to cater to these contracts, including Anduril, headed by crypto-fascist troll Palmer Luckey, who has close ties to mass surveillance firm Palantir (not coincidentally, both are companies named after objects from Lord of the Rings, by people who probably cheered the villains’ quest for absolute power)….

Other defense and security contractors are creating the infrastructure to ingest and manage millions of immigration applicants’ and US sponsors’ sensitive biometric data… in what Hasbrouck termed the “unholy alliance” of public and private surveillance interests and efforts….

(For the record, I didn’t say that any of this would be “worse”, just different, and that wasn’t a question asked in the inteview. Unlike bloggers, reporters for major news media don’t generally write the headlines under which their stories are published.)

Full story from Felipe de la Hoz in The Nation; more from Felipe de la Hoz in The Baffler here and here; my FAQ about no-fly decision-making from the Identity Project blog.

Link | Posted by Edward, 23 January 2021, 14:05 ( 2:05 PM) | Comments (0)

Friday, 8 January 2021

Supreme Court asked to review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement

Today the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights organization represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Constitutionality — now that women are allowed in all military combat assignments — of the law which requires men but not women to register with the Selective Service System for a possible military draft.

Read below for my FAQ about what this does and doesn’t mean, and what happens next. (Click here for links to the Supreme Court docket, pleadings, press releases, and additional commentary and analysis.)

I’ve been tracking this case up and down through the lower courts since 2015, and I attended the oral argument last year before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans that led to the ruling that the Supreme Court is now being asked to review.

I’m actually a footnote (note 3, p. 4) to the petition for certiorari filed today with the Supreme Court, which cites my Web site about the draft as the authoritative source of one of the Department of Defense documents I obtained in response to my Freedom Of Information Act requests to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS). Apparently this document isn’t available from the DoD, the NCMNPS (which removed many files from its Web site before it shut down), or any other government source. The NCMNPS summarily and improperly “closed” almost all of my outstanding FOIA requests and appeals just before it disbanded, and designated most of its records to be immediately destroyed. I managed to get all of the NCMNPS records transferred to the National Archives, which is also threatening to destroy most of those records, but has released some additional files.

Today’s filing of a petition for certiorari (petition with appendices) is no surprise. But for those who haven’t been following the issue closely, it raises questions about the seemingly strange bedfellows — a women’s rights project defending a “men’s rights” group and its members? — and the future of Selective Service registration.

Here’s some of the background to today’s filing with the Supreme Court, what it does and doesn’t mean, and what’s likely to happen next in Congress and the Supreme Court in 2021 on the draft, draft registration, and Selective Service:

Continue reading "Supreme Court asked to review Constitutionality of current male-only draft registration requirement"
Link | Posted by Edward, 8 January 2021, 11:06 (11:06 AM) | Comments (8)

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