Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Secret Laws Work So Well

So it seems that two members of Congress have now been added to “watch lists.”
“[Representative John] Lewis contacted the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and executives at various airlines in a so-far fruitless effort to get his name off the list, said spokeswoman Brenda Jones.”
It seems that this sort of thing is exactly what the Privacy Act of 1974 was intended to prohibit–secret databases that control your life that you can’t get out of. Except, section j.2 exempts “police efforts to prevent, control, or reduce crime.”
If Congresspeople can’t get themselves off the list, what hope does David Nelson or Johnnie Thomas have?
Criteria for being put on the list are secret. Criteria for being removed from the list are non-existant. This only makes sense if you’re a career government employee who never wants to have to explain their actions to Congress. A few complaints, sure, but those aren’t career limiting.
John Gilmore is suing for the right to travel without ID, and not subject to secret laws “communicated orally, from week to week.” If he wins, airport security will have to stop wasting time and energy harrassing Congresspeople, and focus on searching people for weapons. In addition, airlines will no longer be able to collect extra data about each and every passenger for marketing purposes, with it being a crime to lie or try to stay out of their databases. A win for security, a win for privacy, a win for liberty.