You are not required to answer any questions at all. Where youre from, where you were, what you did, nothing, however it may result in an inspection of your bags, so it depends on whether your interpretation of liberty is based on personal convenience.
Disclosure: ive done this opt-out twice. The first time I got to sit in a room with a few other folks who had been randomly selected based on their winning complexion, and was let go after 20 minutes and a bag search. The second time the screening room was busy so i was let go immediately. at no point did i answer a single question.
> Legal precedents grant federal officers at ports of entry the power, without warrants, to require people to strip for a “visual inspection” of genitals and rectums, and to submit to a “monitored bowel movement” to check for secreted drugs.
We did a deep-dive on court settlements by CBP for invasive searches and found quite a few extremely disturbing cases.
> Some women were also handcuffed and transported to hospitals where, against their will, they underwent pelvic exams, X-rays and in one case, drugging via IV, according to suits. Invasive medical procedures require a detainee’s consent or a warrant. In two cases, women were billed for procedures
 "‘Shocked & Humiliated’: Lawsuits accuse Customs, Border Officers of invasive searches of minors, women." ( https://publicintegrity.org/immigration/shocked-and-humiliat... )
A woman was detained at Philadelphia International Airport on her return from Punta Cana. After a few hours (~7hrs) of questioning she is pressured to sign a consent form, denied a consultation with an attorney and forcefully shackled and transferred to a hospital for a "monitored bowel movement" (This involves defecating in the presence of a CBP officer; No warrant needed).
She was then involuntarily committed to the hospital for "elevated heart rate" where she was forcefully stripped, underwent a "close visual inspection", administered lorazepam and olanzapine through IV, underwent an X-Ray, CT Scan along with a urine and blood workup - all of which came back negative for drugs or other contraband.
This entire ordeal lasted nearly 24 hours. After which, she was taken back to the airport and released to drive home. During her drive from the airport, she crashes into a highway median. She alleges that the she wasn't advised about the adverse effects of the medications being used to sedate her and that the medication was responsible for the accident.
All of this happened to a U.S. Citizen; without a warrant and without permission to call a lawyer.
This incident is discussed in further detail in the 4th section of the story mentioned earlier  "Invasive Searches: A woman's 24-hour ordeal"
But as a practical matter they can detain you and do a more intense search than they would if you didn't dig your heels in and silently hand them your passport. You'd be surprised how intrusive a search absent reasonable suspicion can be at the border - they just don't have the resources to do one on everyone.
The info I've been asked for at the border is usually info the government could get if it wanted (Ex: asking where I visited when they have flight records and are looking at my passport stamps)
I'm fine with doing a little participatory security theater if it gets me home quicker and has no real cost to me.
This information is also valid for CBP stops inside the US while traveling by automobile. Your passport or drivers license should be all that is required. No questions.
Most of the time the questions are just a pretext anyway. It just wastes time while their dogs are sniffing around your car looking for drugs.
Is that for citizens or non-citizens? I would think it's only the driver's license for citizens, correct?
They'd sometimes simply intimidate me, sometimes they'd make a big show about searching everything I had (not even looking in every zipper pocket), et c. In all cases they would lie to me and tell me what I was doing was illegal. (Remember: making false statements to federal agents is a crime.)
I eventually stopped after a few years and would voluntarily yield to their probing questions to avoid delays; I continued to get harassed by border guards and sent to secondary (for an additional 1-10 hours of arrest) on every entry for approximately 4 years afterward, even when answering all questions in full voluntarily. These days, they don't ask me questions, and just wave me through. I'm curious what changed a year or two ago to make them stop harassing me for exercising my rights for 24 months some time ago.
Oh, I almost forgot: one time, they digitally penetrated a Canadian woman who was my travel companion, simply because, in secondary (where we ended up because of my previous rights assertions) we both declined to unlock our phones for the border cops. They strip searched us both, and denied her entry. Denying entry is somewhat understandable due to the failure to search her encrypted device (if a bit dumb), however, sexually assaulting her and forcing us both to manipulation of our genitals is a little bit beyond their mission, in my opinion.
Or, when searched a dozen times, would have drugs. I didn’t.
I do this not because I want to be mean but to show them these questions are a pointless waste of time. I mean there are thousands of people who dont speak a word of english who return back. I doubt they can understand these officers, much less respond to them.
Yes, this happened to me and other journalists.
Speaking to a customs official is very rare, I've only had that happen once.
Do most Americans get questioned at their own border? I do, but I'd assumed that was only for "aliens".
Similar thing although with a few more questions entering Canada. Usually it's just, do you have anything to declare - which seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to ask.
'Is this really you?'
You have to hand your receipt from the machines to an agent who may or may not decide to question you at that point. After baggage claim, you may or may not get stopped by a CBP agent who decides to question you based on their "discretion". (At some airports, these two checks are consolidated and done once, after baggage claim).
Some people are stopped for these checks more frequently than others.
As a 20s non-white guy I'm never bothered, so maybe I'm just off-base here.
That stopped happening when I reached my 40s.
Bringing a citrus fruit from most countries, various other fresh foods, counterfeit goods, etc.
But I don't see what the point is in not answering where you visited. I'm pretty sure they already have this information so there's no point in hiding it, in my opinion. Plane tickets, hotel bookings, credit card usage, etc all will tell an easy tale as to where you were and what you did.
Personally, I usually travel with family, so I don't want to make a scene. But when I travel alone, I'm a bit more resistant to trade my rights for convenience.
I completely understand and respect people who peacefully resist border security, and hopefully those agents learn a thing or two about where the limits to their authority are. Please don't be a jerk about it, but you should never be compelled to give any more information or assistant than legally required.
I've even got a few friendly "welcome back" when returning to the states after longer trips
I was out of the U.S. for about 2 weeks (3 countries). Back in the U.S. for a week. Then back out of the U.S. for a month (4 different countries). Either the first or second trip I'd say would have been ordinary for me. But combined and also with the gap was unusual but I didn't think about it as being unusual at the time.
Entry to the U.S. the first time, I had no contact with an agent, all automated, the slip of paper from the Global Entry machine said exit customs.
In London for the flight back to the U.S. (2nd time around), the gate agent told me I was on some list and I needed to check-in with a man nearby at a separate counter. I'm almost certain he was U.S. CBP. Definitely American. I don't think he was TSA or FBI. He asked my address in the U.S., where I was, and whether it was personal or business but not more than that, and opined "I have no idea why they're asking me to do this." This conversation was about 2 minutes.
12 hours later in Denver, Global Entry machines are down, I use the regular machines which spit out a similar slip but I had to go to a Global Entry specific agent manned lane, that agent swiped my passport and immediately asked me to come with him. He hands me off to an agent in a separate room with a waiting area for 30 people, no other people are waiting, and says "he's flagged from blah blah flight". And I get asked all the same questions as before except two: he did fish for more about the sequence of travel and cities, not just countries. I brought up my previous trip and one week gap in the U.S., and he opined "ahh that makes sense now" or to that effect. And that was it, total time maybe 5 minutes.
The information I gave was consistent with Passport and Global entry application, and entry card information. I can't think of one question that was not mundane. I assume all the countries I visited immediately communicate my entry/exit with U.S. CBP the moment my passport is scanned. They already know these things. Except for the cities and sequence.
Looking back on it, I'd have liked to ask a bunch of questions myself about this experience.
I'm not sure if the first agent in London, had I opted out, can inform the airline I'm "not cooperating" and as a courtesy don't board me? But I'm still curious about what got me flagged, and why the London guy was confused thinking it was out of the ordinary or unnecessary. Was it random? Was it a combination of the travel and Global Entry like "oh he gets global entry and then the travel behavior changes, flagged!" sort of logic.
Given that the facial databases contain your data regardless, and the amount of in-airport surveillance (in that you're not gonna avoid being observed and logged), It's more of a, "we're gonna make you present your papers regardless, pick your poison"
Which makes sense because if you're opting out of the new automated process then you just go back to the manual process - somebody looking at your documents. Those document requirements have not changed.
In 2020 when REAL ID comes into effect then you'll need a special ID (typically a new drivers license), or failing that, a passport - but that's a separate issue.
The whole point of this is to implement the Congressional mandate for exit tracking without the more traditional exit controls of getting your passport checked and stamped upon exit (which most countries do).
(I like them because they don't have an address on them. Less info leaking every time I buy a beer)
I didn't opt out though and I suspect that may have been more difficult.
That's an incredibly flawed thing to ask for with domestic flights, though. Most US citizens don't have a passport at all.
The TSA has their own facial recognition program that is being trialed, but currently I believe it's still only for international flights and they don't say anything about requiring a passport for domestic flights. In the past, their biometric stuff has been only opt-in, and if you don't even want the possibility of being asked to opt in, all you have to do is get in the regular security line since the TSA is only testing on people using precheck.
Personally I rarely carry any ID at all, and when I do it's a non-"real ID" driver's license, which I have though I don't own a car. Almost anywhere where ID is "required" (including air travel) it turns out that if you don't have any you can still do what you want (note I'm old enough that I don't get carded for alcohol). I generally have ID with me only if I know in advance I'm going somewhere where I cannot do without it, a couple of times a month. I fly more than that!
(It's absurd that a driving licenses are also IDs, but that's another discussion).
I do usually carry ID, but (except for flying) I can't remember the last time I actually had to show it to anybody.
My back of my phone has a label with my kid’s phone number on it.
Wow, what's the procedure like for when you don't have your ID if you don't mind me asking? What do you tell them when they ask why, how do they verify you, how early do you come/long does it take, etc.?
When you fly without ID (note: this is different from having ID but refusing to provide it -- I never do this) you just get a pat down search and your luggage looked at, basically. And this is true in general, though some NY buildings really will enforce an ID (absurd! It's just to keep poor people out) and some federal courthouses for some reason. I mean, it's not like people are checking IDs against some watch list when you walk into a building, nor do most people know what all forms of ID look like, so what's the purpose of all that nonsense?
So for the ID case, like most things in life, I simply tell the truth. But for SSN I do fib: when asked for SSN (say at a drugstore or whatever) I say "sorry, I'm a foreigner and don't have one". Yes, I have one, but again, most people who ask for an SSN collect it for no reason that is useful to me.
If you make a big deal of it then of course people won't want to deal with you -- it's generally not the decision of the person you're talking with anyway. But if you act like it's the most natural thing in the world then life usually just goes on, as it should.
I'm rarely asked unless there is a regulatory reason they're asking (and then I tell the truth). But when someone wants to know mine for no legitimate reason, I give them Richard Nixon's SSN.
The whole idea of needing ID to fly is quite recent; you used to by cheap unused tickets on craigslist (and before that from classified ads in newspapers). Round trip tickets were much cheaper than one way so people would buy a round trip and then sell the unused segment. Or a company would book a ticket and then due to a change of plans someone else would take the flight. On some flights you bought the ticket on the plane.
Then again on a few occasions I got on the wrong flight and end up some place unexpected.
The destructive permissions culture that we see online expanded along with parallel development in the physical world.
That's interesting. I wonder what happens if you're a defendant and they won't let you in the building?
I mentioned this in another thread but for me they just had me talk to a more senior person who asked me some questions and asked for "a prescription bottle, a bank card or something else with your name on it". They also swiped my hands for explosives. Total extra time was just a few minutes.
I recently got some for my kids for an upcoming trip and it required me to take time off of work to visit the Post Office during a narrow window when the passport clerk is there, whom we had to pay for her services, to then mail off each passport application individually along with original birth certificates and another check to get the passports a couple of months later. Both parents had to be at the post office to process the application. It's a pretty awful process.
The reason (I assume) for the 5-year expiration is that kids look a lot different in 5 years.
Here in Portland you can go to several post offices but the easier way is to go to the county headquarters. Very short wait time, photographer on premises (I keep wanting to just stand the kids against a wall but wife vetoes that), etc.
Last year I had business on Spring Break and my wife took our kids to British Columbia. I was a little surprised that they made it across the border without a hitch. No notarized letter, etc. We did have to have both parents notarize something for my son to cross the border for Boy Scouts.
Unfortunately, thanks to racists, it's considered politically incorrect to even require a photo ID when voting, so I don't see us solving this problem in a satisfactory way soon.
Give every citizen access to a completely free ID card, including giving them access to the required supporting documents for free.
A lot of people, especially older people and people without a lot of spare cash, simply don't have photo ID. If you're homeless, getting all the documentation needed to get a license is a severe impediment.
This needs to be voted on by a full session of Congress and debated in the public sphere, not quietly rolled out at a few airports to normalize it.
Most US citizens do not have a passport. Passports are a real pain to get, so people tend not to bother unless they're planning a specific out-of-country trip.
Only thing I could think was it was a new passport. Pissed me off though. That's just stupid.
I'm pretty sure most native born citizens don't get passports unless and until they make plans to travel internationally.
I’d recommend planning ahead instead, but in my case I couldn’t give up my soon-to-expire passport as I was traveling and didn’t expect another international trip so soon after expiration (to use the alternate means of proving citizenship and identity rather than returning the old passport book).
I assumed Americans would want the same kind of basic freedom to move between countries?
You'd get a really funny look if you were suddenly asked to go on a business trip to the US and you said you didn't have a passport yet. Not sure why it wouldn't be the same if you were in the US and asked to go on a business trip to the UK.
I think the difference is the size of the US. I've traveled a fair bit for work, but never been asked to leave the country. Jobs that do require international travel often explicitly say so in the description and say you must have a passport.
As far as freedom to travel, unless you happen to be on the northern or southern border, you can't just hop on a plane and travel out of country on a whim. It's just flat-out not as easy to travel to other countries here as it is in Europe.
If you're in the US, going to a different country is a major undertaking unless you happen to live near the Canadian or Mexican border, regardless of whether you have a passport or not. Casual international travel is just not a thing for most people.
How come it’s seen as pretty normal to go for example from the UK to New York for a weekend, even a middle class couple might do a Christmas shopping weekend like that once a year, but the opposite, the same distance and cost, is seen as a major undertaking?
I think the short answer is that the US is physically huge. Just the state I live in alone is about the same land area as Germany, and there are 49 others -- many of which are larger than mine.
Just getting to an airport that you can take an international flight to the UK from can be a big deal all by itself. It's not cheap (an oddity about plane fares in the US is that domestic travel can cost as much or more than flying across the Atlantic), and can take a day or two. The cost of the flight from, say, New York to London is not necessarily the major portion of the travel expense.
The travel time is significant, as I mentioned. For a lot of people (pretty much anyone who doesn't live in the general north-eastern portion of the US), a "weekend trip" would require 4-6 days. Vacation time is limited, so not everyone is willing to spend a significant portion of it on an airplane or in airports.
Cost is a big deal -- traveling overseas is expensive, and the prices for things in the UK are quite high as well (probably on par with New York, but New York is very expensive). Most people who aren't wealthy (which is the vast majority of people) could really only expect to afford it once or twice in a lifetime, unless they are willing to sacrifice a lot of other things to make it happen more frequently -- and some people do, but most people have other priorities for the money.
(I wonder why your comments keep getting downvoted? That's weird.)
Hotels often ask for ID. You don’t know if your plans will change and you’ll need to fly straight to another country, etc.
Some ID, yes, people try to have one all the time. A passport though? Most people I know only ever carry that for international travel. This is about domestic travel.
> Hotels often ask for ID. You don’t know if your plans will change and you’ll need to fly straight to another country, etc.
Yes but that's for international travel. We're asking about domestic travel because this affects them just the same.
It's certainly not happened to me, and I'm in the quite unusual position of being someone who's traveled internationally for business on <24h notice.
In other words, no, I never take my passport with me unless I leave my house intending to leave the country.
I certainly did in the UK, as well as to prove my age in a bar etc. Lots and lots of people "in their own countries" don't have a driver's license because public transport is enough.
Britain has a proof of age card, but 10 years ago it wasn't recognized very well: http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk/
The more accurate one is that elements of the Federal Government are "unhappy" that some States will issue a Drivers License based on understanding of road laws and practical skills, and not based on demonstration of legal residence or citizenship.
Washington, for example, is one. You pass your test, written, practical, pay your fee. They don't ask about your citizenship.
So the Federal Government says "Well, we won't allow your DLs to be used federally (or for flying), then".
If the federal government wants to have an ID that displays legal residence, then they can either entrust the states to do so or issue one themselves, which seems even less politically viable.
Also, do you think California was being actually inept or just willfully ignorant based on their demographics? I live in NJ and I know we were also one of the laggards. Shocker, we also have a very large immigrant population, and have a AG that issued orders not to assist ICE. Seems like it's probably easier to play coy and just drag your feet on this one. Or it could just be good ol fashioned government bureaucracy and ineptitude.
That proclamation was forgotten as soon as the Cold War ended.
The thing which slows folks down at passport gates (and the reason the best passport control agents don't have a jocular welcoming patter) is the hello/goodbye/talking around the manual "look at your face, look at your passport".
When the gates open at Heathrow and you're allowed through, you'll immediately see a raised bank of desks behind which sit a bunch of officer who are simply manually verifying that the person in the photo appears to be the person on the passport.
I did some digging to make sure that isn't what's happening here (all the articles seem to be very vague about the "biometric" and "facial recognition" part). Here's where I got to:
> Using facial recognition, TVS enables biometric identity verification by transmitting automated queries to locate photos in DHS and U.S. Department of State databases for matching against the unique characteristics of a traveler’s facial features. As designed, this updated capability operates in a virtual, cloud-based infrastructure that can store images temporarily and operate using a wireless network, thereby eliminating the need for the tablets previously used in 2016.
And Inverness had none of the above. Just a normal manual check of passport in the security line. Not surprising, given the size of the airport.
Inverness is great btw!
> Biometric Templates: CBP creates biometric templates of historical photos and new photos for matching and storage. Biometric templates are strings of multiple numbers representing images that can be matched against other templates that represent facial images. These templates are irreversible and cannot be reverse-engineered by anyone outside of CBP to reconstruct the photo, meaning that these photographs are not recognizable outside of the TVS system.
So even if no single photo of you is on their severs, they still have a fingerprint of your face that can positively identify you.
Is this really true with GANs these days? Not that this was meant to be a technical statement of course... but I'd imagine you could train a network to create a photo that activates a given template?
The claim they do this. Who knows if they really do?
Beware scope creep.
I was actually specifically taking about US passports (sorry I wasn’t explicit) which were introduced during and until the end of the Wilson administration and then were revived in WWII (for travel to Europe before the US entered the war). Again, the history part of the US passport Wikipedia page is not a bad overview.
Thanks for sharing OP!
If you have a counter-argument I'm all ears, but I just don't see the point for myself, here and now, to opt-out.
Oh, you put up the scanners, hired folks to do pat downs, are requiring me to take off my shoes, remove my laptop, etc?
I thought that was the TSA. Would you please stop?
The current approach is making us less safe, and we'd all be better off with the pre-9/11 security framework.
Edit: By "we" I mean Americans. America's enemies would be SOL.
We don't have mm-wave scanners scattered across the country. We do, however, have cameras. Everywhere. CBP is under the Department of Homeland Security . It's not a stretch to take the models, hardware, experience and scans CBP builds and use them in the interior.
There is a very long history in the US demonstrating that such laws aren't terribly effective.
So the majority of US citizens who don't have a passport can't opt out? I've already reduced the number of times that I fly to the absolute minimum. It sounds like I'll need to find a way to reduce that to zero.
WTF?! Years? Seriously? I hope to hell that is a typo.
REAL ID, federalizes drivers licenses for creating a database of photos for facial recognition and metadata.
Enhanced Passport--the requirements for getting the photo include not wearing glasses and not smiling, ostensibly so that their algorithm works better.
Facial scanning at airports, so they can build up as big a database as possible.
I'm surprised they didn't require full fingerprints for REAL ID.
How much further do we go before the tyranny becomes in your face enough?
Permanent residents (and non residents) already get their prints scanned at every entry. I'm a naturalized citizen now but was always mildly bothered by being singled out (my wife and kids are US citizens by birth) for that level of screening.
They do in California!
Which I remember only because I was surprised/amused to see this in the driver's handbook (the pamphlet they give you if you are applying for a license). That handbook contains a tiny slice of the vehicle code, presumably the most important subset, which is why this made me laugh.
I just looked at the current one online and it no longer includes this info.
Wouldn't that violate the driver's license compact? (IANAL)
When I renewed my driver's license a number of years ago, they required a new photo to be taken without my glasses or a smile, so that's not only a passport requirement.
Frankly I hope they ramp it up, because maybe it'll at least open up peoples eyes to all the other insane sorts of injustices that go on.
I used to be skeptical of this stuff, too. Then, we had 18 years of no major terrorist attacks.
We had 17 years of no major terrorist attacks that involved airplanes prior to 9/11; if you count the foiled plot, you could bump it down to six: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_airliner_bombing_a...
And we've had plenty of terrorist attacks since 9/11, we just don't call them that - we call them "lone wolves":
Plus, the original topic is about foreign threats, not domestic.
Then major terrorist attacks don't exist.
> Plus, the original topic is about foreign threats, not domestic.
I wonder if RealID and facial scanning would help with these goalposts, they keep wandering off.
I hope my down-voters are very active in organizations that scrutinize our government. Otherwise, I see some hypocrisy.
 Sure, there are plenty of bad actors online. But, in a country of several hundred million, they’re still a fringe minority. (And, how many are state actors attempting to sow discord?)
It also ignores prior abuses of govt power entirely aside from terrorist threats, that might be fair reason alone to distrust the current mechanisms being applied.
I also donate regularly to the ACLU and EFF, and do what I can to impact local politics, although these issues don't come up as much there, so no need to expect hypocrisy just because people disagree with you. (And frankly, even if they aren't active in these organizations, I support anyone who desires scrutanization, even if only in spreading that zeitgeist online. A few people being the "Watchmen" is no substitute for a cultural awareness that govts. _require_ checks, balances, and a tight reign by the people.)
I’m not blind to the issues. I am just happy that I was born into a country like the USA. I could have had much, much worse luck. And, even with all the blemishes and the frustration of slow processes, I stay motivated to keep this government going as it was designed. And, in my opinion, it’s actually a better country than a few hundred years ago. That gives me hope.
Really? Even on HN there's certain freedoms that the majority wants curtailed. Reddit is a complete cesspool of pro-totalitarianism. Twitter is, well, Twitter.
If you're reading this, I highly recommend the game Papers Please. It's not... fun per se, but it is engaging and very interesting. Definitely worth a try.
Maybe so, depending on how you define "major terrorist attacks", but that's only because that's when I started carrying my anti-terrorism charm.
You can't publish evidence of state war crimes without the CIA doing a character assassination job on you (pending a real assassination).
You can't travel anonymously.
You can't publish anonymously.
You can't make bank transfers out of the country for arbitrary purposes.
You can't deposit or withdraw cash above a trivial amount without significant scrutiny which is reported to the government. Financial companies failing to report can be criminally liable; it is illegal for them to protect your privacy.
It's illegal to not let the state know where you habitually sleep (state ID/driver's license requirements).
You can't drive from place to place without being subject to arbitrary "I smelled marijuana" search.
Every single phone call, SMS, and email is logged by the government.
Every single train and airplane ride is logged by the government in realtime, and government ID is required to board planes (and some trains).
Every single payment card swipe is logged by the government in realtime, and has been since 2008.
The government can, at any time, with zero burden of proof, freeze any/all of your payment cards and deposit accounts.
The government can, at any time, with zero burden of proof, freeze your ability to send/receive electronic payments.
You can't make private transactions (e.g. at a casino) over a trivial amount in cash without having to submit identity documents.
Our government runs a global network of extrajudicial torture prisons.
Our government regularly uses illegal and inhumane conditions against children to dissuade people from seeking human rights (specifically to asylum).
Our government runs an extrajudicial network of assassination robots that target citizens and foreigners alike, with basically zero oversight about who they kill or why.
Our government has been known to retaliate with bogus charges against anyone who stands publicly against their illegal activities, e.g. Joseph Nacchio.
I'm really confused as to what would have to happen for you to think that we do live in a totalitarian state.
Government watch lists / no fly lists which have little to no oversight and no appeal process.
National Security Letters (NSLs) which have overly broad powers, minimal oversight, and include permanent gag orders.
Today I learned the government expects me to sleep in my PO Box.
Also, even if you did have to provide your residence for your ID/DL, there's no law that says you have to get an ID/DL in the first place. Not having one will make life hard, but it isn't illegal.
Is this directly because of DHS, et al.?