Citizen, Where You Bound?

|

Another of these niggling, depressing, "the innocent have no reason to fear" clampdowns on that most precious of freedoms—to move and live unmolested by officious busybodies with mysterious agendas. Check out this Associated Press report :
The government wants detailed information about every person who comes to or leaves the country by plane or boat, and for the first time will require U.S. citizens to fill out forms detailing their comings and goings.
Under rules proposed Friday, the information would be sent electronically to the government for matching against security databases.
"It's another way to enhance security for travelers," Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman Kimberly Weismann said.
The public will have a month to comment on the plan and the final regulations will take effect later this year.

The scariest part is buried further down:
Once the information is collected, it will be transmitted to the U.S. government and matched against security databases prior to the travelers' arrival. A passenger or crew member whose information raises a red flag could be met by officials when the ship or plane arrives.

In a world increasingly united into one huge database, where (as things like "deadbeat dad" databases and new-hire registries show) the government doesn't hesitate to link any reason it has to clamp down on you with any liberty it decides to treat as a "privilege" (apparently, now, leaving or coming back to the U.S.), one shivers to wonder what will end up qualifying as a "red flag"—especially, as the AP story says, when "The law also gives Attorney General John Ashcroft leeway in proposing further requirements."

The ACLU isn't concerned about this, according to AP.

NEXT: Big Gulp of the Gulf

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. From the AP story:

    The proposal requires all passengers arriving or departing, as well as crew members, to provide this information: name, date of birth, citizenship, sex, passport number and country of issuance, country of residence, U.S. visa number and other details of its issuance, address while in the United States, and, where it applies, alien registration number.”

    I don’t have a problem with this. Now, if they were asking where I was going, who I was going to see and where I was staying while outside the country, I’d tell ’em to fuck off. It’s none of their business.

    The U.S. has a responsibility to patrol its borders. It has the right to inspect passports and determine if those under warrants are leaving the country. It especially has the right (as the article states) to track incoming visitors from abroad and check to see if they’re leaving when they say they will.

    Even so, this bears watching to see how it plays out in practice. It’s too easy for a U.S. citizen to be stopped because some credit agency puts a red flag on that file. And as for Ashcroft (shudder).

  2. I already get much more personal questions whenever I fly into Canada – Where am I staying, who am I seeing, etc.

  3. So what’s new? “Name, date of birth, citizenship, sex, passport number and country of issuance, country of residence, [and[ U.S. visa number and other details of its issuance,” is all information encoded in your passport already, and is instantly accessible every time it gets swiped entering the country. Likewise, you’ve always had to provide an address you can be reached in the United States on your customs declaration form, though there’s no system to confirm it, and for the most part inspectors only glance over these forms for red flags, then toss them. On flights from Canada, where U.S. customs and immigrations are cleared before even boarding the flight, this represents exactly zero change from how things have gone one for years and years. For everyone else, Uncle Sam will just know you’re coming ahead of time, but no new information. So “[a] passenger or crew member whose information raises a red flag could be met by officials when the ship or plane arrives”…as opposed to having them rush to the scene two minutes later when the INS swipes your passport?

  4. The ACLU isn’t concerned about this? I’m concerned about that.
    I’m beginning to wonder how much more efficient Hitler would have been with a computer network…

  5. Hitler w/ the internet at his disposal?

    The friggin Nazi flag would be flying over DC.

  6. Um, Hitler *had* a computer network. Hollerith (IBM punch-) cards. Admittedly, it wasn’t decentralized, it wasn’t peer-to-peer or client-server or much of anything except classic Big Iron, but it was there. It was largely used to track supplies — and the deportation and murder of Jews — in Germany.

    See the recent book “IBM and the Holocaust,” and the discussions at Google keywords (Hitler and IBM or Hollerith)

  7. In a world increasingly united into one huge database, where (as things like “deadbeat dad” databases and new-hire registries show) the government doesn’t hesitate to link any reason it has to clamp down on you with any liberty it decides to treat as a “privilege” (apparently, now, leaving or coming back to the U.S.), one shivers to wonder what will end up qualifying as a “red flag” — especially, as the AP story says, when “The law also gives Attorney General John Ashcroft leeway in proposing further requirements.”

    Nevermind what a huge sentence that is. Does anyone konw what he’s talking about when he says the “deadbeat dads database” stuff? Email me (bolc@–ReMoVeThIS–stanford.edu)

  8. I am not a deadbeat dad, I was unfortunately injured and being self-employed and underinsured, had to go on welfare for one month. At this point, the state of California suspended my driver’s license, saying I owed them repayment. I moved to florida, got pulled over, and found out my license was suspended by being charged with knowingly driving on a suspended license, which is untrue. this has snowballed into a huge ordeal and legal bill. databases are only as good as the people that use them, and the government lost my confidence quite some time ago.

  9. Dan: I believe the computer network you alluded to Hitler being in possession of was, in fact, nothing more than a “system”. A true “net”work was still nearly forty years in the future. The vastly enhanced capabilities inherent in the net being either in the hands of Hitler or certain unnamed governments a bit closer to our own space and time is the scenario that gives me pause for concern.

  10. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://organize-digital-photo.online-photo-print.com
    DATE: 01/20/2004 07:12:18
    A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life and a little wisdom to avoid the errors, that will do

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.