Sunday, March 06, 2005

John Gilmore and the electrifying, mystifying, air plane ticket

I don't quite know how to take this guy. However, in balance, I think I rather like him. He represents a rebellious streak in the US citizen which IMHO made the United States a great nation.
The story is simple....he bought an airline ticket cash, with no ID. No amount of patting down or checking out or anything else will allow him to fly on that airplane without "Das Papers". Fine...except believe it or not, the law which prevents him from flying is in itself, secret, and cannot be examined! Its not the requirement to have an internal passport that frosts his noodles, but rather, the cavalier way his beloved government has brought in this legislation.
In Canada, of course, the government cannot keep you ignorant of the law on purpose, and I always figured that was the case south of the border in the land of the....well...mostly free. They are trying to do it with the "prohibited/restricted/allowed weapons laws, but us "evil weapons dealers" arn't letting them get away with it. This could become a regular rant on this site, but for now, please, go to the Post Gazzette, and read this article....

here is a sampling.....

Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy
He's unable to travel because he refuses to present a government-approved ID
Sunday, February 27, 2005

By Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

SAN FRANCISCO -- John Gilmore's splendid isolation began July 4, 2002, when, with defiance aforethought, he strolled to the Southwest Airlines counter at Oakland Airport and presented his ticket.The gate agent asked for his ID.

Gilmore asked her why.

It is the law, she said.

Gilmore asked to see the law.

Nobody could produce a copy. To date, nobody has. The regulation that mandates ID at airports is "Sensitive Security Information." The law, as it turns out, is unavailable for inspection.

What started out as a weekend trip to Washington became a crawl through the courts in search of an answer to Gilmore's question: Why?

In post 9/11 America, asking "Why?" when someone from an airline asks for identification can start some interesting arguments. Gilmore, who learned to argue on the debate team in his hometown of Bradford, McKean County, has started an argument that, should it reach its intended target, the U.S. Supreme Court, would turn the rules of national security on end, reach deep into the tug-of-war between private rights and public safety, and play havoc with the Department of Homeland Security.

At the heart of Gilmore's stubbornness is the worry about the thin line between safety and tyranny.

"Are they just basically saying we just can't travel without identity papers? If that's true, then I'd rather see us go through a real debate that says we want to introduce required identity papers in our society rather than trying to legislate it through the back door through regulations that say there's not any other way to get around," Gilmore said. "Basically what they want is a show of obedience."


Martyr73 said...

Very interesting. This is the first time of heard about this story. Every time I have ever taken a flight, I have always had to show some form of identification. I think it makes sense, for security reasons to verify that the person with the ticket is indeed who that person says he is. However, if it is truly a law, then it should be easily available for a traveler to read. Every ticket counter should have a copy of the law and maybe even a poster stating what the law is and why identification is necessary. If they had provided this information, Mr. Gilmore would not had a leg to stand on. That's just the way I see it.

STAG said...

I think Mr. Gilmore would LOVE to not have a leg to stand on.

The security arguement does not stand up to scrutiny though. Lets see....where to start.....

False documents.
Real but stolen documents.
Real documents for real people which have been recinded.
Real documents for real people which have been reported lost.
Real documents for real people which may be expired or due to expire.
Suborned agents with excellent documentation, obtained same as any body else's. (the guys who flew into the twin towers for instance...)
Documents issued by agencies other than the US...say Canada or Israel...may be non-standard
Temporary documents pending issue of passports or other papers.
Handing off of boarding passes to somebody else in the terminal.

Okay, so documents don't guarantee security. What does?

Hmmm....fingerprints can now be checked against known criminals within ten minutes. That would help. A tamper proof card with a thumbprint clearly displayed along side the photo ID would be acceptable, as would a standard international passport. But it is helpful to remember that none of these things would have prevented the 9-11 hi-jackings. Sky marshals would help, as will an enraged cabin full of people who refuse to sit there and die at the hands of a fanatic.
Perhaps that is the answer....careful initial screening as is being done now, and the ready willingness to take action when needed. And the perps knowledge that action WILL be taken to spoil their plans.

Anyway....this is nice feel good stuff, however the real problem with Mr. Gilmore's stance is that he thinks the security issue is a blind for bullies to hide behind.