Thursday, 5 December 2019

Will the DHS require mug shots of U.S. citizen travellers?

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, while I was preparing my testimony for a precedent-setting meeting of the Seattle Port Commission on December 10th to consider principles and policies for use of automated facial recognition for identification, surveillance, and control of airline passengers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I uncovered a previously-unnoticed offical notice from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it planned to issue new regulations to require mug shots of all international travellers, including U.S. citizens.

My report about this Monday on the Identity Project blog triggered a flurry of publicity in other news outlets and an immediate firestorm of outrage from the public and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Today the DHS sent out a press release claiming to have cancelled its plans, at least for now. But instead of admitting to having backed down in the face of public and Congressional pressure, they instead chose to try to shoot the messenger by falsely characterizing my accurate report about their own official public notice as containing "incorrect... claims".

As I said in an article by David Koenig for the Associated Press on the DHS about-face:

Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate who pointed out the proposal, said the matter might not be settled.

"Was this a trial balloon to find out whether the DHS had finally reached the limits of our willingness to be treated like criminals whenever we fly?" he said. "And if so, has the DHS partially backed off, at least for now? Maybe."

There's more about the DHS press release, and my response to their unjustified criticism of my reporting, in the Identity Project blog.

I look forward to seeing some of you Tuesday in Seattle, where the Port Commission will have a chance to ask more questions about what the DHS and its airline "partners" are already doing, and what they are planning.

Link | Posted by Edward, 5 December 2019, 16:52 ( 4:52 PM) | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Last Call for Public Comments to End Draft Registration!

It's Time to End Draft Registration Once and For ALL!

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service is at work right now to determine the fate of Selective Service registration for a military draft, and they need to hear from you!

Congress established the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service as part of the compromise between the House and Senate reached by the Conference Committee during the 2017 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) process.

The Commission's mandate is to consider issues of national service, both military and civilian, including important questions about Selective Service registration: should it continue, should women be required to register, and if registration for a military draft is to be maintained, what changes should be made to the Selective Service System? In its deliberations and public meetings, the Commission also has considered mandatory national service for all young people.

It has been decades since there has been a serious national conversation about Selective Service. This is a great opportunity to send a message to Congress that it is time to End Draft Registration Once and For ALL!

Draft registration has been a failure and a burden on millions of men. The vast majority of men violate the law by not registering willfully or timely as the law requires. Most young men today are registered through coercive means that are linked to other actions, such as applying for student financial aid or a driver's license or state ID. If someone fails to register, these and other Federal and state programs and services can be taken away, without due process.

Rather than continue this extra-judicial punishment for men or extend it to women, it's time to end draft registration for everyone!

Requiring women to register for the draft does nothing to forward the movement for gender equality. To the contrary, feminist movements throughout history have included resistance to the undemocratic practice of conscription. The male-only draft already has been deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Striking down the draft and draft registration for everyone is the better path toward freedom and equality for all genders!

The Commission is scheduled to report its findings and make recommendations for the future of draft registration in March of 2020. They are taking public comment now and through the end of 2019.

Please share your views with the Commission today. Let them know you believe that:

  1. Draft registration should be ended for everyone, not extended to women;
  2. All criminal, civil, federal and state penalties for failure to register must be ended and overturned for those currently living under these penalties; and
  3. National service should remain voluntary. Compulsory service, whether civilian or military, is in conflict with the principles of a democratic and free society.

The Commission is accepting public comments through the end of the year. Please submit written comments -- by December 31, 2019 -- through the Commission's Web site; by email, using the subject line, "Docket 05-2018-01" to national.commission.on.service.info@mail.mil; or by snail-mail to "National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, Attn: RFI COMMENT--Docket 05-2018-01, 2530 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Room 1029 Arlington, VA 22202".

More information, including official statements already submitted from our partners, is linked below.

Thank you!

Signed,

Link | Posted by Edward, 19 November 2019, 10:47 (10:47 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Anti-war activists meet with members of the National Commission on Military Service

On Wednesday, 13 November 2019, I was one of six representatives of anti-war and anti-draft organizations who were invited to participate in an hour-long conference call with three of the eleven members of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS).

The NCMNPS was created almost three years ago, and has been meeting for more than two years, but according to the minutes of NCMNPS meetings released in response to my FOIA requests, this was the first time, other than the hearing at which I testified in April 2019, that members of the NCMNPS have met with or invited submissions from anti-war organizations.

As I said in my written opening statement for the conference call:

It should be obvious that one of the main reasons for opposition to military conscription is opposition to war, and that many Americans oppose military conscription and Selective Service registration not because they think the draft "unnecessary" for waging war, but because they oppose some or all of the wars that Americans might be conscripted to fight.

It should be equally obvious that whether continuation, enforcement, or expansion to women of Selective Service registration, a draft, or compulsory national service would be "feasible" would depend not only on whether those subject to such a requirement would submit, or how and in what numbers they would resist, but on the response of a larger anti-war and anti-draft movement of women and men of all ages who would support, assist, and join them in acts of resistance -- individual and collective, legal and illegal -- to conscription and war. Understanding of anti-war and anti-draft sentiment and likely resistance to any draft is therefore essential to your task of assessing the feasibility of these policy options.

My testimony focused on an issue that wasn't part of the terms of reference for any of the Commisison's hearings: why Federal legislation recommended by the Commission or enacted by Congress to end draft registration should include provisions not only to repeal all Federal criminal, administrative, and naturalization sanctions for nonregistration, but also to preempt all state sanctions for nonregistration or other violations of the Military Selective Service Act.

The members of the NCMNPS who participated in the call were Commissioners Debra Wada (Vice-Chair of the NCMNPS for Selective Service System issues), Edward Allard III, and Shawn Skelly.

The Commissioners' questions during the conference call were similar to some of those they had asked during the formal public hearing in April:

In conjunction with the conference call, the NCMNPS also invited, and has posted, written submissions from participants and from other anti-war organizations:

  1. Written statements from participants in the conference call on 13 November 2019:
  2. Statements submitted to the NCMNPS by other anti-war organizations:

All of the participants in the call agreed, and told the NCMNPS, that:

  1. Draft registration should be ended for everyone, not extended to women;
  2. All criminal, civil, federal and state penalties for failure to register must be ended and overturned for those currently living under these penalties; and
  3. National service should remain voluntary. Compulsory service, whether civilian or military, is in conflict with the principles of a democratic and free society.

Following the call, the participating organizations and several others issued a joint last call for people and organizations who oppose the draft, draft registration, expansion of draft registration to women, continued punishment of draft registration resisters, and compulsory national service to submit comments to the NCMNPS by 31 December 2019.

Link | Posted by Edward, 19 November 2019, 09:17 ( 9:17 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, 25 August 2019

An "Airline Passengers' Bill Of Rights"?

Christopher Elliott reports today in Forbes on S. 2341, a proposal for an "Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights" introduced last month by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and four other Senators "If enacted, it would be the most significant consumer protection legislation for air travelers since the enactment of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978," Elliott quotes me as saying about this bill.

Here's more on what S. 2341 would do, where it has problems, and what else is important for airline passengers' rights:

S. 2341 would be an important step forward, with a few exceptions as discussed below. But it's important to keep in mind that the oldest and still the most important consumer protection rule applicable to airlines is the requirement that, as common carriers, they sell tickets only in accordance with a published tariff. Common carrier law, especially its tariff requirements, is and should remain the foundation for airline passengers' rights.

Airlines' efforts to escape from common carrier requirements, in order to replace tariffs with personalize pricing (so that, for example, an airline that figures out from your posts on Facebook that your mother is dying can charge you $10,000 for a ticket to see her before she dies), are the most significant threat to airline passengers' rights. Preserving the existing framework of common carrier law, and enforcing its tariff publication and tariff adherence requirements, is more important than any new conumer protection rules for airline passengers.

Christopher Elliott's article today focuses mostly on the substantive protections in the proposed law, but also notes some of the ways it would improve the structures and procedures for enforcement of existing airline consumrer protection rules, opening up enforcement to state consumer protection agencies and private lawsuits including class actions. Given the lax job that the U.S. Department of Transportation has been doing at enforcing the existing laws, the expansion of enforcement authority may be the most significant part of S. 2341 (and will probably be the portion most strongly opposed by the airline industry).

Here's what I think is most important in S. 2341, in order of importance, starting with the most important provisions:

  1. Section 211 of the bill, ending preemption of state consumer protection laws as applied to airlines, is huge. This has been the top request of state Attorneys General for many years, especially with respect to airline price advertising that violates state truth-in-advertising laws.

  2. Section 208 creates a private right of action for individuals to challenge unfair and deceptive practices by airlines. This is especially significant when coupled with the ban on mandatory arbitration and class-action waivers in Section 212. The result will be that contingent-fee class action lawyers will challenge many of the violations of air travelers' rights on which the U.S. Department of Transportation has declined to take action, even when gadflies and watchdogs have made formal complaints.

  3. Section 201 prohibits fees disproportionate to actual costs. That could be significant, but airlines will certainly try -- and may well succeed -- to game their cost accounting to attribute more than actual costs to these services, to justify high fees.

  4. Section 304 is technical but could prove significant. It appears to be intended to break some of the revolving-door cronyism between the Department of Transportation and airlines, and make enforcement officials behave like the law enforcement officers they are supposed to be, policing the airline industry rather than serving the airline industry as a "partner".

The questionable provisions in the bill are those in Section 203 on price "transparency". It's striking that there is no mention of tariffs or tariff publication in this section, or anywhere in S. 2341. Historically, as noted above, the way that transparency in fares has been guaranteed has been the statutory requirement for airlines as common carriers to sell tickets only at prices prescribed in a published tariff, and to make that tariff publicly available. (That's what "published" means.)

Section 203 could be interpreted as reducing what transparency is currently required, if it is interpreted as replacing, rather than adding to, existing common carrier tariff adherence and tariff publication requirements. I think the intent to require more airfare transparencyis good, but I would much prefer reinstatement of an explicit tariff publication and tariff adherence rule, and bundling of the provisions in Section 203 into that tariff requirement.

(Note that requiring publication of, and adherence to, a tariff, is not the same thing as the government dictating what prices or rules should be in that tariff. There is no contradiction between deregulation of prices, full freedom of airlines to set their own prices and routes, and the transparency requirement of publication of, and adherence to, a tariff.)

I'm not sure how much chance of passage S. 2341 has, starting with only Democratic Party co-sponsors and with the former owner of a (failed) airline as President. But even rich Republicans who are devout believers in deregulation and a hands-off attitude toward business are often frequent flyers who recognize that airlines are exploiting their oligopoly in ways that are unfair to travelers. Because air travelers are a relatively rich segment of consumers, air travelers' rights have more support from rich conservatives than most other consumer issues.

Link | Posted by Edward, 25 August 2019, 07:37 ( 7:37 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

European Commission doesn't want to enforce its CRS rules

In May 2017 the European Commission finally agreed to investigate my longstanding complaint that the lack of adequate access controls or access logging for airline reservation data stored by computerized reservation systems (CRSs) violates the data protection provisions in Article 11 of the European Union's Code of Conduct for Computerized Reservation Systems.

More than two years later, I've finally received the first substantive response to my complaint: a letter from the European Commission proposing to deny my complaint for lack of jurisdiction, on the absurd grounds that data security is not regulated by the Code of Conduct for CRSs (even though the Code of Conduct includes an entire article on "Processing, access and storage of personal data" which requires that "technical and organizational measures shall be taken to prevent the circumvention of data protection rules through the interconnection between the databases and to ensure that personal data are only accessible for the specific purpose for which they were collected"), that the situation described in my complaint doesn't actually implicate these provisions of the Code of Conduct (?), and that complaints of violations of data protection rules must "in the first instance" be made before other authorities pursuant to the General Data Protection Regulations (notwithstanding the explicit provision of the Code of Conduct that its data protection rules "are complementary to and shall exist in addition to the data subject rights laid down by" the GDPR).

I've responded to the Commission with an explanation of why it should investigate and act on my complaint without further delay.

I don't know why the European Commission is so eager not to enforce its own regulations. I'm not alone in my puzzlement: That question was asked last year, without getting an answer, at a hearing in the European Parliament concerning the status of the Code of Conduct for CRSs. Similar questions about the lack of enforcement by the European Commission of the Code of Conduct for CRSs have been asked by European advocates for the rights of airline passengers.

In December 2018, the European Commission concluded a public consultation on whether the Code of Conduct for CRSs should be retained, repealed, or amended. (See my submission to the consultation.) But the European Commission has not yet released the results of that consultation or its recommendations for legislative action.

Link | Posted by Edward, 7 August 2019, 10:56 (10:56 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Former Director of Selective Service says it's time to end draft registration


[Dr. Bernard Rostker, Director of the Selective Service System from 1979-1981, testifies before the NCMNPS on Wednesday, 24 April 2019.]

In what could, and perhaps should, be the beginning of the end for draft registration, the former director of the Selective Service System told a Federal hearing this week that the program he helped create and once ran is no longer working, that the database of registrants has become so hopelessly incomplete and inaccurate that it couldn't be used for a military draft that could be enforced or would stand up to due process and fairness challenges, and that it can and should be shut down entirely rather than trying to expand it to women.

As Director of Selective Service from 1979-1981, Dr. Bernard Rostker brought the Selective Service System out of "deep standby" and managed the startup of the currently ongoing registration scheme and the initial mass registration of five million young men for a possible military draft.

On Wednesday, 24 April 2019, Dr. Rostker was seated at the opposite end of the witness table in front of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (NCMNPS) from the current Director of Selective Service, Donald M. Benton, an early Trump supporter and state campaign chair with no relevant experience or apparent qualifications for the Selective Service job who was appointed to the position as a political sinecure.


[Donald M. Benton, current Director of the the Selective Service System (near left) listens as his predecessor Dr. Bernard Rostker (far right) testifies that it's time to end the program they have both directed.]

Rostker is no friend of draft resisters, according to Alex Reyes, one of my comrades in resistance and Rostker's nemesis as Washington, DC, representative and spokesperson for the National Resistance Committee and probably among those who were investigated and considered for proesecution in the early 1908s for conspiracy and advocacy of draft resistance.

Rostker started his career as an economist, and his message to the NCMNPS was neither partisan nor anti-draft, but pragmatic and businesslike:

As I have argued in my recent paper the current system of registration does not provide a comprehensive and nor an accurate data base upon which to implement conscription. It systematically lacks large segments of the eligible male population and for those that are included, the currency of information contained is questionable....

The most recent district court ruling finding the unconstitutionality of a male only draft also is not an endorsement for registering or conscripting women.... I cannot think of a more divisive issue than the conscription of women, an issue that clearly does not need to be addressed at this time given that a return to a draft is so unlikely. This is a "fight" we really don't need to have. It is a "fight" that can and should be put off.... If this means that at this time the MSSA [Military Selective Service Act] needs to be repealed, so be it....

Continue reading "Former Director of Selective Service says it's time to end draft registration"
Link | Posted by Edward, 28 April 2019, 09:43 ( 9:43 AM) | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 25 April 2019

My testimony to the National Commission on Military Service

Flyer for hearings on Selective Service

C-SPAN video

My written statement

Official transcript

News from the hearings: Former Director of Selective Service says it's time to end draft registration

NPR News: Selective Service registration comes under fire again


[Testifying before the NCMNPS, 25 April 2019. Diane Randall of FCNL at left, back to camera. Photo by Jim Fussell.]

I've been invited to testify as part of a panel of expert witnesses at a hearing on the the military draft and the Selective Service System, including whether draft registration should be ended entirely or extended to women as well as men, on Thursday morning, 25 April 2019, before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service in Washington, DC.

These hearings are the most important public discussion of the issue of military conscription in the USA in more than 30 years. So far as I know, the last time a draft resister was invited to tell the Federal government what they thought should be done about the Selective Service System was in 1972 when David Harris was invited to testify before a Senate committee considering an amnesty for some (but not all) draft law violators, an event he described in his book, Our War.

Read on for links to my testimony and more about these hearings.

Continue reading "My testimony to the National Commission on Military Service"
Link | Posted by Edward, 25 April 2019, 06:00 ( 6:00 AM) | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Amazing Race 31, Episode 1

Hermosa Beach, CA (USA) - Los Angeles, CA (USA) - Narita (Japan) - Tokyo (Japan)

There were fears that the The Amazing Race might have come to an end when broadcasts of the latest season, filmed last summer, were postponed repeatedly. But then the new season was moved forward abruptly to replace another series that was doing badly, and the race around the world is on again.

What's new this season is the absence of new faces: the entire cast of season 31 of The Amazing Race is comprised of experienced reality TV show participants. But unlike The Amazing Race 18, which was billed as a second chance for contestants on previous seasons of The Amazing Race who didn't win but were popular or unpopular enough to attract TV viewers, this season's cast of racers has been assembled from previous contestants not just on The Amazing Race but also on "Survivor" and/or "Big Brother".

That led to many questions in this first episode -- questions which perhaps will continue throughout the season -- as to how a race around the world or a reality-TV travel show more generally compares with these other reality-TV competitions.

The consensus seems to be that travel, or at least "The Amazing Race", is physically and mentally harder work than "Big Brother" or "Survivor". Travellers can try to be prepared, but they can't always plan or know what to expect. They have to make decisions on the spot, in real time, under pressure of hunger, fatigue, sleep deprivation, uncertainty, culture shock, sensory overload, and ambiguous, incomplete, or incompletely understood information.

The English word "travel" is derived from travail, the French word for "work". Historically, travel was indubitably work, and something almost everyone avoided. For one long-term perspective on those mostly-bad old days, see the deadpan descriptions in Norbert Ohler's The Medieval Traveller (which I found through a citation to it in my friend Gillian Spraggs' definitive treatise on one of the particular perils of the Olde English road, Outlaws and Highwaymen).

One of the simplest ways to reduce the travails of travel is to travel more slowly. Much of the work in travel is in getting from place to place, and staying longer in each place you visit means spending less of your time working at getting around. Since much of the contribution of travel to global warming comes from the burning of fossil fuel for transportation, slower travel is also, almost by definition, greener travel.

Sometimes, and for some people, risk enhances rewards. I went to a wonderful and upbeat slide show and talk this week by my smiling friend Shirley Johnson about her solo bicycle trip from the Arctic Ocean in Canada south to the Pacific coast of Alaska. Awareness of the risks heightened her perceptions and her enjoyment of the trip, she said. But travel can be consciousness-expanding without having to be scary.

Overall, travel has gotten ever easier, and I would argue that in most respects it is still getting easier than it used to be. When the first season of "The Amazing Race" premiered, just days before 9/11, it was promoted as a celebration of exploration and cultural encounter, not about terror or primarily about physical difficulties. When CBS decided to go forward with broadcasts of "The Amazing Race" after 9/11, it seemed to be statement that the world is still a fundamentally welcoming place. I wonder, though, how many people are now retreating from travel, or seeing it primarily in terms of risk rather than reward.

Is travel more fun, more work, or both than staying home in the "Big Brother" house, or staying put on the "Survivor" island? Is travel getting easier, or getting to be more work? Please share your thoughts in the comments -- and stay tuned.

Link | Posted by Edward, 17 April 2019, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, 31 March 2019

WOW Air is bankrupt

Iceland-based discount airline WOW Air went bankrupt and ceased operations abruptly last Thursday. All WOW Air planes were grounded wherever they were, and even flights for which passengers were already being checked in were cancelled. Travellers have been stranded in Europe, in North America, and in Iceland.

Iceland's location along the great-circle route between Europe and North America has made it a natural connection and stopover hub for trans-Atlantic air travel. Icelandair remains in business, serving those markets. And of course there have been many successful short-haul discount airlines. But while there have also been many attempts to at long-haul discount airlines, both trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific, there have been few if any long-term standalone successes.

Having a short-hop airline go out of business is one thing. Having a transoceanic carrier go out of business in the middle of your trip, when you can't get home by train or bus or rental car, is another matter -- not to mention getting stuck on a remote island such as Iceland while changing planes, or on what was planned to be just a short stopover.

Travellers holding WOW Air tickets purchased in Europe may eventually get compensation under European airline consumer protection rules and/or government travel insurance schemes. Travellers who bought their tickets in the USA, for flights originating in the USA, may be able to recover what they paid form credit card companies, but otherwise will probably be out of luck. The USA has far weaker consumer protection rules than many other countries.

My FAQ on Airline Bankruptcies has more on what you need to know about dealing with airlines that are already operating in bankruptcy or arte in danger of going bankrupt. The WOW Air debacle is a reminder that, despite reassuring rhetoric about "reorganization" not really being bankruptcy (really it is) and continuing to operate "normally" and honor tickets while bankrupt (whether that will be allowed is in the hands of the bankruptcy court, which is solely concerned with the interests of other creditors and not with those of ticket holders), you generally should not buy tickets on any airline that is, or is likely to become, bankrupt. If you do, have a Plan B and budget for what you would do if the airline shuts down at any time before or during your trip.

Link | Posted by Edward, 31 March 2019, 15:53 ( 3:53 PM) | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, 30 March 2019

How writers monetize words: The marketplaces for writing in digital formats

The Internet is often depicted as a threat to traditional print publishing and traditional print publishers -- which it is. But the Internet has also created many new digital publishing and income opportunities for tech-savvy, innovative, and entrepreneurial writers, including ways to make money from business models and types of writing that would be difficult or impossible to exploit profitably in any print format.

The National Writers Union is the most diverse organization of working writers in the USA. Membership in the NWU is open to writers in all genres, media, and business models. As an elected national division chair of the NWU, and a representative of the NWU to several national and international coalitions and federations, I've seen more diversity of writers' revenue mixes than most writers themselves could imagine.

While I've been Co-Chair of the Book Division of the NWU since 2009, and have had books in print with what is now part of a major publisher for more than twenty years, I have earned my own living throughout that time primarily from writing published in digital formats as a staff writer, independent contractor, freelancer, and self-publisher of Web sites, blogs, and e-mail newsletters. Whenever I talk with an NWU chapter or other group of NWU members, I learn about more ways that writers are earning a living from writing distributed in digital formats.

But many of these revenue streams are invisible to the traditional publishing industry, technology companies, and government officials. This results in technology, business, and policy proposals that are irrelevant to writers' real working lives or, worse, that have unintended or deliberate but unnoticed adverse consequences for writers' livelihoods.

So I was pleased to be invited to give a overview on behalf of the NWU of the marketplaces for writing in digital formats at the start of a day-long conference on March 28th on Developing the Digital Marketplace for Copyrighted Works. It was the latest in a series of events on this theme -- and the first at which a writer was invited to speak -- organized by the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force and hosted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (which also has, despite its name, a division that deals with copyrights rather than patents and trademarks) at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, VA. (See the agenda with complete list of speakers.)

I hope that a better understanding of writers' diverse livelihoods will better inform business proposals, industry analysis, and policy making by the stakeholders and government officials from multiple Federal agencies who attended or watched the webcast of the meeting.

I've posted my slides below, along with the notes from my presentation below [updated to add links to the video archive and transcript]:

I look forward to continuing the discussion of how writers make our living on the Internet -- and what it means for public policy -- within the NWU, with other writers' organizations, with other business partners and service providers, and with government policy makers. Please contact me if you're interested in a discussion or in hosting an event on this topic or on related issues of how writers can earn a living in the digital age.

Link | Posted by Edward, 30 March 2019, 16:29 ( 4:29 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)