Lose Your Mobility Rights for Under $1 Billion


In January, Jim Harper reminds us, DHS began requiring that all travelers show a passport when traveling to the United States from areas within the western hemisphere. This was odd for a number of reasons, even by the warped standards of security theater. For one, as Bruce Schneier pointed out at the time, ferries would be temporarily excluded–presumably on the theory that bad men eschew sea travel. For another, no one understood how passport offices were going to handle the influx of applications. (It turned out that they couldn't, so regulations were temporarily eased.) Now the State Department reveals that the new travel rules will cost $1 billion, give or take:

New travel rules that swamped passport offices and frustrated U.S. travelers this summer will cost the government an estimated $944 million over three years, according to federal paperwork filed Wednesday.

The department initially figured it would cost $289 million between budget years 2006 and 2008 to handle the boost in demand for passports created by post-9/11 security measures passed by Congress and implemented by the Homeland Security Department.

That obviously doesn't include the costs of lost cross-border commerce, here and abroad.

A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

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  1. Obviously, while waiting for the passort, the would-be bomber will go to a therapist to overcome fear of boat travel, fall in love with her, get married, and buy a house in Canada. By then, he will have forgotten about the whole plot.

  2. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    Oh come on Howley. IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN Won’t you please start thinking of the children?

  3. Well, of course, Warren, you know that when Kerry Howley has children she’ll stop being a libertarian.

    I mean, right away. I think it’s an incontravertable biological fact.

    Dan T. can explain it.

  4. It will thwart the evildoers by doing their job for them. Every step towards a police state makes them happier. Besides, thats one billion dollars that won’t be spent on bombs and bullets.

  5. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    It won’t? Can I have my gold star now Kerry? And I expect it to be real gold, too, so I can operate properly under the gold standard when Ron Paul becomes president.

  6. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    By showing them that our government is hopelessly incompetent and so can’t be the source of all of their problems?

  7. bobster,
    I’d assume we’ll just print another billion dollar bill if bombs are at stake

  8. Evildoer is a perfectly emboldened word.

  9. destijl, you’ve embiggened this thread.

  10. Kerry,

    Clearly you lack the national security mindset. The answer is quite simple. All terrorist traffic will be by ferry. Therefore, all of our security personnel will be guarding the ferries. Simple!

  11. Perhaps they’re going to pass a law that all terrorists need passports…

  12. Ooh! Ooh! I know! The terrorists will be so paralyzed from laughing so hard at our ridiculous bureaucracy that they won’t be able to attack us, and when they finally calm down will realize that they couldn’t harm us worse than our bureaucracy.

  13. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    I’ll take a stab at it because I want a gold star so much.

    Step 1: As the US ratchets up passport requirements from this country and foreign countries to include biometrics, they will be harder to fake then driver’s licenses and birth certificates. Currently, the latter is all you need to cross the borders contiguous with the US.

    Step 2: Canada has more liberalized assylum laws. Mexico is reputedly corrupt. It is feared that a terrorist with a paper trail could exploit either to get into those countries when the US would deny entry. From there, he could use a fake driver’s license to get here. (This rests on the flawed assumption that the US will infallibly flag terrorists with paper trails at border crossings, but there you are).

    Step 3: As passports become harder to fake, and ferry terminals have their ability to process international travellers upgraded, the costs to an international terrorist exploiting our neighbors’ lower barriers to entry go up.

    Step 4: Even if a terrorist does slip through and attack us, after the fact it will become easier to backtrack his movements into this country because we will have required he use a passport with biometric data. Hopefully this will help us find evidence about where he came from and who supported him. Those likely to support terrorism, knowing they can be tracked, will turn to beating swords into plowshares.

    So thsi really could make us safer in a few years, even if it doesn’t right now. Whether the risks are worth the investment and increased costs to all travllers (doubtful) is another discussion.

  14. I have a cunning plan. Let’s kill everyone who tries to come into our country, no matter what their nationality. Nope, no Americans, either. No one can leave. Or, rather, no one can come back. Simple!


  15. keith
    I’d assume we’ll just print another billion dollar bill if bombs are at stake.
    The terrorists will not think of that. They are idiots who will be dumbfounded by the new passport rules remember?

    Pro Libertate
    Shut up dude you are giving them ideas.

  16. I’m claiming that *Gold Star*!

    Gnome 1: This is where all our work is done.
    Kyle: So what are you gonna do with all these underpants you steal?
    Gnome 1: Collecting underpants is just phase one. Phase one: collect underpants.
    Kyle: So what’s phase two?
    Gnome 1: Hey, what’s phase two?!
    Gnome 2: Phase one: we collect underpants.
    Gnome 1: Ya, ya, ya. But what about phase two?
    Gnome 2: Well, phase three is profit. Get it?
    Stan: I don’t get it.
    Gnome 2: (Goes over to a chart on the wall) You see, Phase one: collect underpants, phase two-
    Gnome 2: Phase three: profit.
    Cartman: Oh I get it.
    Stan: No you don’t.
    Kyle: Do you guys know anything about corporations?
    Gnome 2: You bet we do.
    Gnome 1: Us gnomes are geniuses at corporations.

    All that extra security and standing in lines at the airport gives the gnomes in Homeland Security more time and opportunity to steal our underwear.

  17. I have a cunning plan.

    You’re an idiot, Baldrick.

  18. FINALLY, SOMEONE GETS IT! I’ve been “cunning plan that” and “cunning plan this” for years around here, and not a single person ever said anything. In this everything-is-an-inside-reference community, that’s more than surprising. It’s suspicious.

    That guy on House is a Blackadder alum.

  19. just because some don’t deem it worth comment doesn’t mean they don’t get it

  20. They should just make everyone that is attempting to enter the US, including citizens, spend 12 months in Gitmo for a quarantine/cooling off period. If after twelve months of confinement, they express any sort of hostility towards the US government, request the services of an attorney or complain about the interrogation methods, then we will have the proof that we need to declare them terrorists and detain them indefinitely. A true patriotic American would not leave the country to begin with and if they did, they would not mind 12 months of solitary confinement and waterboarding if that is what it takes to protect us from the Islamic evildoers.

  21. It’s just the first step in requiring us to always have our “papers” (aka passport) on our person at all times. Once everyone is forced out of horrible inconvenience to get a passport, making us carry it around and present it to “the authorities” on demand to keep our children safe and thwart terrorists will be easily accepted by the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world.

  22. Uh, huh. I don’t buy it. If I said something like, “Bart, with $10,000, we’d be millionaires!”, I don’t doubt that I’d read three comments afterwards referring to something else Simpsonsesque.

  23. Pro Lib –

    I just assumed *everyone* got it. As a proud owner of the boxed set of The Black Adder on DVD (and before that, the videotapes), I can assure you that no reference to old Slackbladder gets by me! Baaah!

  24. Jake,

    It’s funny, but the first time I tried to watch the series, I wasn’t all that interested. A few years ago, I thought I’d try again, and I loved it. I think my favorite was the series during Elizabeth I’s reign. The abuse rendered in that show is the stuff of legend.

  25. The increased costs of crossing the border will so weaken our international-trade based economy that the US standard of living will fall to the average level of the rest of the world.

    This, in turn, will eliminate the envy-of-our-wealth hatred of America which is the sole cause of terrorism. As a consequence the evildoers will lose their desire to commit suicide attacks against us.

    Do I get my gold star now?

  26. The series 2 episode in which Blackadder and Melchett are in the hands of the Inquisition is one of my absolute favorites for hilarity. Blackadder’s utter smartassitude in the face of horrific torture is something to which I shall aspire should I ever fall into the hands of Homeland Security.

  27. Pro Libertate:

    I also said nothing on the assumption that, as a (relatively) recent arrival, I simply missed the thread where everyone congratulated you on your awesome knowledge of pop culture.

    (One of my college buddies always insisted there was some connection between Blackadder and Barenaked Ladies. Something about a dress that wasn’t really made out of the purest green.)

  28. When do we get rescued by the evildoers and more importantly how are they going to get my controlled substances delivered on time?

  29. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    Apparently, the enhanced interrogation of Padilla turned him into a gibbering idiot.

    Woe be unto those who face the double gitmo of standing in line and then dealing with the bureaucracy of the passport office.

  30. I feel better, because without knowing where “cunning plan” came from, I sound batshit insane.

  31. without knowing where “cunning plan” came from, I sound batshit insane.

    er… you’re leading with your chin, there, PL.

    I DO know where “cunning plan” comes from, used it once myself in a long-ago post. From the lack of response, I assumed that the other posters hadn’t seen the series.

    My favorite was the Georgian series and the Blackadder Christmas Carol.

  32. Oh, yeah. The other thing that made me ignore the “cunning plan” remark was that you immediately spelled out your plan. That meant I never got a chance to preemptively mock you by asking if it involved a turnip.

    [I only ever saw the QE1 episodes, plus one set in WWI.]

  33. Everyone here knows the drill. It doesn’t matter if the government actually solves the problem. It matters that the government is seen to be “doing something”, and that the officials involved cover their ass.

    If a terrorist gets through the border with a fake drivers licence, instead of a passport, people will scream “Why didn’t you require a passport!?!?!”, and some official will be punished for it. Of course, the terrorist can just as easily get a fake passport (or real passport), and cross… however, if they do it that way, the official in charge has covered their ass.

  34. A gold star to any commenter who can figure out how this will thwart the evildoers.

    It’s a trick question. It won’t. I want my gold star because I answered it correctly.

  35. That guy on House is a Blackadder alum.

    They’ve referenced Blackadder on House at least a couple times. House mentioned once that he had a cunning plan, and one time they showed a list of TV programs on House’s Tivo with this exchange:

    Wilson – You watch Old Yankee Workshop?
    House – Sure. Clumsy imbeciles with power tools, what’s not to like?

    Among the saved shows on the list were episodes of Blackadder.

  36. “That guy on House is a Blackadder alum.”

    Yeah, but far more important, he was in Jeeves and Wooster.

  37. Never mind the nefarious plots – the first thing it is is a revenue grab. 90something bucks a head for passports, including for my four- and two-year-old kids? Screw it, we’re going to Boston instead. But Washington will make back its billion and then some, just on people with relatives in Quebec.

  38. Everybody must show a passport for the same reason that everybody must take of their shoes when going through airport security — because we’re afraid someone will scream “discrimination” if we profile and focus security efforts only on potential security risks. So the 50-year-old sales executive, who’s been a frequent flyer for 25 years, is subjected to the same scrutiny as a 20-year-old Saudi national. To do otherwise would be “unfair.”

    Thank you for flying Dhimmi Airlines!

  39. Oh come on Howley. IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN Won’t you please start thinking of the children?

    Kerry hates the children, Warren. Or didn’t you know that?

  40. Son of a!,

    You’re right. The appropriate delivery should’ve been “I have a cunning plan.” Period. Pause while someone who understands the reference posts an insult of Blackadderian proportions, then spell out the cunning plan. My mistake.

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