Privacy & Security

Big Brother, May I? Soon, You’ll Need Uncle Sam’s Permission to Travel Almost Anywhere

You might think that only 20,000 or so people are on the U.S. "no-fly" list. Not true. We're all on the no-fly list, unless the government gives us permission to leave—or re-enter—the United States. And in addition to obtaining Big Brother’s permission to travel internationally, a final rule pursuant to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s “Secure Flight” initiative says we must now get it to travel from state-to-state.”

For now, permission to travel applies only to air transport. However, the TSA could of course extend it to train, bus, or auto travel anytime. (Just imagine TSA checkpoints on interstates at every state border.)  And, while the TSA hasn’t announced the effective date of the rule, it did reveal what information it would need in order to leave, say, San Francisco, to fly to Las Vegas for a weekend on the Strip.

This is why when you make an airline reservation, you must now reveal your name, gender, and date of birth. The airline contact the TSA to determine if you’re cleared to board. If you’re on a TSA watchlist (which include such deceased “terrorists” as Saddam Hussein), you’ll need to provide an official document acceptable for federal identification purposes in order to travel. Examples of acceptable identity documents are passports and the “enhanced” driver’s licenses required under the ill-fated “Real ID Act.” If you can’t produce such a document, you can’t board the plane.

This is the first time the U.S. government has restricted the right of sovereign citizens to travel inside the United States since the Civil War. And the TSA is imposing this restriction, despite numerous rulings from the Supreme Court indicating that you have a Constitutional right to travel. According to the court, the right to travel is "not a mere conditional liberty subject to regulation and control under conventional due process or equal protection standards," but "a virtually unconditional personal right." International travel is specifically protected as well, for "Travel abroad, like travel within the country, may be necessary for a livelihood…Freedom of movement is basic to our scheme of values."

Further, the U.S. government has reiterated in its most recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that, “…[I]n the United States, the right to travel—both domestically and internationally—is constitutionally protected." Perhaps it’s time the government amend this declaration!

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.


Copyright © 2008 by Mark Nestmann

Update: The Department of Homeland Security is now deploying checkpoints in train stations and on highways. If you're unfortunate enough to encounter one of these checkpoints, you'll need to present a photo ID and subject yourself to a dog sniff to proceed.

An earlier version of this post was published by The Sovereign Society.)

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