Airline I.D. Case Flies to the Heights


John Gilmore, in his long, dogged fight for the right to travel anonymously, has finally filed petition for certiorari [legal terminology corrected from original post] with the U.S. Supreme Court. Every previous court has shot him down, and the government continues to refuse to discuss the "secret law" requiring showing I.Ds at airports, though we now have reason to believe that the real law says you either show I.D. or submit to secondary screening, which has worked for some people in some airports and not worked for others.

Gilmore's team sums up the legal issues they see involved in this case.

We at Reason have covered and blogged the twists and turns of Gilmore's fight so often and for so long I can only guide you to this google search page (make sure you click through to all four pages!) and my first, and most thorough, feature about Gilmore's case back in 2003, when it was just a little baby crawling its way through District Court.

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  1. The prospect of this going to the SC fills me with a sense of dread. I’m afraid of how they’ll answer.

  2. I’m not surprised that Gilmore has lost every step of the way.

    What surprises me is that none of the judges ever insisted on seeing the text of the “secret law.” I’m surprised that none of them said “Look, the government’s stand seems to be reasonable, but I can’t uphold a law or regulation that I haven’t even read. So show me the damn regulation.”

  3. Written Law that is published so it cannot be applied capriciously and arbitrarily? What a radical concept!

    Watching the retrograde movement of law in the West is so depressing

  4. secret law

    The fact that no court has called the government on this bullshit is shameful. I’m also a bit surprised that the Constitution doesn’t mention secret laws – you’d think that one of those old dead white slaveowners would have thought that they might be a problem someday.

  5. Go here:
    The Myth of the Rule of Law

    For an excellent article about law. Is it really relevant whether or not the law is written down? It will be enforced in the manner the authorities want anyway.

  6. jeffiek-

    I didn’t read your link, but, sad to say, it’s not the mysterious “authorities” who want laws enforced this way, it’s us, the people of the United States. If we were really disgusted by this then the politicians doing this would be jobless. People get the government they deserve.

  7. The majority of the people get the government they deserve. The rest of us suffer through it.

  8. Jeffiek-

    Completely agreed. That’s a much better way of putting it.

  9. But it’s so much easier blaming “them.”

  10. If I were a federal court hearing such a case, I’d rule in favor of Gilmore based on. . .another secret law. One secretly known only to the judiciary.

  11. The appeals court basically said that the law is not a secret since it was posted at the counter and he was informed of it through airline personnel (the TSA boss at each airport has authority to make airport-specific rules rather than a uniform federal rule). It also shoots down vaugeness arguements saying the ID rule is not a criminal statute (which would require heightened scrutiny) and the right to travel arguement saying he can get where he is going a variety of other ways. I doubt the SC will even take this case let alone overturn it.

  12. Okay, is it a “secret” law or not? I don’t have time to go read through all of this stuff.

  13. “has finally filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court”


    No he didn’t.

    He filed a petition – a request – for certiorari. A cert petition is not an appeal. There are direct appeals to the Supreme Court, but not from cases like this one, which lost at the trial court level and then lost on appeal.

    It’s a lawyer’s point, but the point remains. He did not “file an appeal.” He asked – petitioned – to be allowed to be heard. No matter how important the case, the Supreme Court doesn’t have to grant cert.

    So even though you and I would like to get some answers, even though we feel it’s important, we may not – they may just decline to grant cert., and the case dies as it lies, with the lower decision left in place.

  14. Anybody seen this, straight from the TSA’s website:

    I like the sub-heading: “Told you’re on a federal government watch list?”.

  15. Also, TSA’s website says nothing about requiring ID. The phrase they are now using is: “The absence of proper identification will result in additional screening.”

  16. Also, TSA’s website says nothing about requiring ID. The phrase they are now using is: “The absence of proper identification will result in additional screening.”

  17. Mike-

    Thanks for that. I was going to go to lunch but seeing the government essentially going “Papers, citizen, Big Brother must know who you are! Provide three copies of form x, fill in block 27-A, etc.! And don’t bleat unless you’re told, sheep!” made me sick, especially since they tried to dress it up with a “kindly” tone and those two laughing old ladies who would gladly strip you down for talking back.

  18. Dear Eh–right you are, post updated.

  19. Long passed are the days when being a U.S. citizen is good enough for the U.S. government.

  20. [][][][]

    ….Gilmore obviously needs a ‘different approach’ to his legal problem — since he has been soundly defeated by several official panels of black-robed government legal-bureaucrats. SCOTUS ain’t gonna rock-the-boat.

    Asking career government-employees to directly fight their government employer has a low probability of success… kinda like taking your dispute with a local automobile mechanic to that mechanic’s brother-in-law for a binding arbitration decision.

    Instead of pursuing court action on broad issues of Constitutional principle and interpretation against abstract airline-corporate & government entities, perhaps Gilmore should keep-it-simple (KISS).

    If he posessed a legal & valid ticket for an airline flight
    … but some airport person(s) physically restrained him (.. or credibly threatened to restrain him) from boarding the aircraft — then Gilmore was a victim of ordinary criminal assault… same as if somebody stopped you from peacefully entering a public movie theater because they had ‘secret’ authority to keep you out.

    He should file formal assault charges against the specific person(s) involved. That radically changes the basic legal/court challenge. Now specific defendants have to prove their secret-authority to a criminal jury… or go to jail. Thus, the issue is not so easily poo-poohed away by a government judge.

  21. He should file formal assault charges against the specific person(s) involved.

    Yeah, that wouldn’t work, at all. The cops would do nothing. Not do nothing the way the civil courts are doing nothing in Gilmore’s case, but do nothing and pretend you aren’t even in the room.

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