Your Papers, Please

John Gilmore attempted to board an airplane on the 4th of July 2002. When asked to produce and ID, he refused. Apparently, there is a secret law that gives the Federal Government the power to check for IDs. Funny, I don’t remember seeing that in the Constitution; I need to read it again just in case.

Gilmore sued in court. The result is not pleasant, but should not surprise anyone. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ID requirement is not unconstitutional:

“We hold that neither the identification policy nor its application to Gilmore violated Gilmore’s constitutional rights, and therefore we deny the petition. The Constitution does not guarantee the right to travel by any particular form of transportation.”

“He was not threatened with arrest or some other form of punishment; rather he simply was told that unless he complied with the policy, he would not be permitted to board the plane. There was no penalty for noncompliance.”

But the Constitution does not say that there should be a TSA either. The right to travel is nothing but the ability of a person to freely engage in a business transaction allowing him to enjoy air travel. Any restriction on this peaceful and legitimate contractual agreement is unethical and incoherent. Not only is this restriction unjustified, it is also unconstitutional.

Until recently, Americans had enjoyed being able to move around the country with little or no interference. Sadly, this is no longer the case. From airports to buses to trains and subways, our movements are carefully watched and controlled. Babies have been added to the no-fly list. And who can forget when Ted Kennedy had his name added to that infamous list? Being a Senator has its perks; he was able to make some phone calls and he was allowed to travel. But tell this to the thousands of people on this list. There is virtually no way to get names removed. All in the name of safety; all for our own good.

So where to we stand? The dirty paws of the Federal Government are turning local police officers into de facto urban guerillas. We have seen stories of secret courts, secret prisons and secret police. There is no longer a need for conspiracy theories: there is a secret government.

And while at home we are forced to endure corporate fascism and creeping socialism over a bed of inflation, overseas our neighbors are offered a one-item menu consisting of military interventionism sautéed with economic protectionism. This is one nasty meal.

In the end, the good old U.S.A. is making peons out of its citizens, and subjects out of everyone else outside its borders. The imperial machinery is a finely tuned mechanism. With enough perseverance, however, it should not be difficult to stop it in its tracks once and for all.