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Americans can opt out of airport facial recognition (techcrunch.com)
205 points by FrancesFinTech 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 205 comments

also worth noting: as a US citizen re-entering the country you do not have to present anything more to a customs agent than your passport.

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.

The searches that even a U.S. Citizen could be subject to (without a warrant) are extremely broad[1].

> 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.[1]

We did a deep-dive on court settlements by CBP for invasive searches and found quite a few extremely disturbing cases.[1]

> 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

[1] "‘Shocked & Humiliated’: Lawsuits accuse Customs, Border Officers of invasive searches of minors, women." ( https://publicintegrity.org/immigration/shocked-and-humiliat... )

One of the more extreme cases we found:

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 [1] "Invasive Searches: A woman's 24-hour ordeal"

[1] https://publicintegrity.org/immigration/shocked-and-humiliat...

Of course there is nothing to prevent customs and immigration from violating the law, except lawsuits after the fact.

> also worth noting: as a US citizen re-entering the country you do not have to present anything more to a customs agent than your passport.

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.

again, it depends on your definition of liberty. I take a hardline stance. to confirm: this is absolutely not recommended for everyone. The demeanor of your CBP officer shifts quite unpleasantly when you decide not to answer them. They will begin to lie to you about the events taking place, as its their job.

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.

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.

> Your passport or drivers license should be all that is required.

Is that for citizens or non-citizens? I would think it's only the driver's license for citizens, correct?

The issue is in theory non citizens can have DLs, and they're trying to sniff out illegal immigrants. (In practice they tend to not pry white people for proof beyond a DL and pinky swearing they're citizens)

I did this every time I re-entered the US for several years. After a few times, they took to arresting me for 4-10 hours on EVERY ENTRY, sending busses without me, making me miss connecting flights, et c. One time I was locked in a room without food, water, or medication for 12 hours. (FWIW, I'm white, a US citizen, employed, and wealthy-by-most-standards-but-not-by-HNs.)

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.

You definitely got put on the "probable drug smuggler" list. Luckily you seem to have fallen off of that list but if you went back to your old behavior I'm sure you could find your way back on it.

It’s not okay to assume someone is breaking the law and treat them like a criminal and force them to incur thousands of dollars of additional expense simply because they invoked their human rights.

Their username, "sneak", explains it all.

You’d think that someone smuggling drugs would not tell the customs agents “none of your business” when asked where they are going. I did.

Or, when searched a dozen times, would have drugs. I didn’t.

What does it mean to be "digitally penetrated"? I'm not familiar with that.

read digit as “finger” not “numerical representation form”; it means that a customs agent stuck their fingers in one or more bodily orifices.

In English digit comes from the latin word for finger (digitus)

Thanks - I am a native English speaker and I am aware of the origin of the root word. @hprotagonist addresses my confusion.

That is what I thought as well. Sometimes if I am in a bad mood/snarky and they ask me what I do for a living, I just say “computers”. They always ask me “computer what? engineer? programmer?” I simply respond back “computer! computer!” and they just angrily let me go.

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.

I thought those questions were more to gauge whether you were a victim of human trafficking than anything else. The details they have asked always seemed innocuous enough. Business or pleasure, how long did you stay, stuff like that. Nothing I wouldn’t tell a guy sitting next to me on the flight.

Yeah, They can demand to search your things if you want in. Including unlocking your phone, the alternative is to give them your phone while still locked, or not be let in.

Yes, this happened to me and other journalists.

They can't not let you in if you're a U.S. citizen. They can search or impound your property, and they can temporarily detain you, but ultimately they have the choice of letting you in or arresting you based on some probable cause. As a U.S. citizen, sending you back is not an option.

Yep. This is why I don't take any devices aside from a temporary burner phone with me when I fly. If I need something at my destination, I ship it via a parcel carrier.

The last few times I've returned to the states I haven't even had to talk to a customs agent - but signing up for Global Entry might be too much of a violation of privacy by some standards.

I think every time I enter the European Union as a citizen (crossing the border in Denmark, Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands or Spain) I've either not interacted with anyone (electronic border gate), or said nothing more than "hello" and "thank you".

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".

As an American entering the EU, I wasn't asked anything either. Just handed my passport, stamped, on my way.

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.

As a Canadian, I get questioned on entry to Canada every time. I assume it is the same for Americans; the borders are configured very similarly.

Canadian borders make american ones seem tame. I recently visited, and 2 of our party were denied at the border for non-crime information associated with them. We all turned back, but were hasled for doing so. It was not a welcoming or comfortable experince. I will hesitate to return.

I am a US citizen and I've traveled to 20+ countries. By far the most intensive and invasive border crossings have been entering Canada followed by entering the US.

The only conversation I've ever had when going through passport control in the EU was in Rome. I was around 25 with a full beard and my passport photo was taken when I was a clean-shaven 17/18 year old. The conversation went:

'Is this really you?'


'Okay, thanks.'

I can't stand the "electronic border gate" either, it's so orwellian

> The last few times I've returned to the states I haven't even had to talk to a customs agent - but signing up for Global Entry might be too much of a violation of privacy by some standards.

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.

Fair enough. I (20s white guy, mostly asleep) probably don't fit the 'needs to be questioned' profile all that much. (And I'm not certain I'd have remembered answering a basic question like 'why were you travelling' anyways...)

A 20s male is probably pretty high on the list of people to question. I would guess that if you're a US citizen, as they're only concerned with what you're bringing in rather than what you're planning to do or how long you're staying, not looking like a stereotypical foreign terrorist probably doesn't help much.

As a 20s non-white guy I'm never bothered, so maybe I'm just off-base here.

When I was a 20-something white guy (this was pre-9/11), I could count on getting pulled out of line, questioned, and swabbed down in certain airports. I always wrote it off to the fact that I had very long hair and dressed like I was poor, but carried a high-end briefcase.

That stopped happening when I reached my 40s.

I think the 'mostly asleep' might have a good bit to do with it, too - what kind of smuggler isn't at least slightly nervous when crossing customs?

That applies to intentional smuggling, but I'm sure a lot more CBP seizures (by number, if not quantity) are from enforcing agricultural and IP laws that travelers unknowingly or carelessly attempted to violate.

Bringing a citrus fruit from most countries, various other fresh foods, counterfeit goods, etc.

I understand the need to exercise freedom, and I do this when in line for TSA. I opt for hand-screening usually.

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.

Arguably defending the right to refuse to testify.

Why should you tell an officer something that you're not legally required to? It's none of their business, and if they can look it up, they can go ahead. It's a means of peaceful resistance to a procedure that's arguably unconstitutional (fourth amendment).

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.

Either the questions depend highly on your travel destination or I don't look very suspicious. Traveling to/from US EU the most I ever get is "is this for business or personal?".

I've even got a few friendly "welcome back" when returning to the states after longer trips

They haven't even collected the form from me the last two times I've gone through re-entry.

Except one time, I've only ever been asked one or two mundane questions that are already answered on the entry card. And that one time, was the second time I'd ever entered the U.S. with Global Entry. This was about 18 months ago.

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.

Am I the only one spooked by the fact that to opt out, you now need to have your passport with you? (and for _domestic travel_ no less)

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"

I think the article is wrong about this. The linked EFF post mentions nothing about passports and the TSA currently accepts a wide range of ID documents for domestic flights:


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.

Are they actually using this on domestic flights? I know the article mentions flying domestically but I haven't seen any evidence that this is being used for non-international flights.

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 thought so too, so your comment prompted me to look it up. Seems like the enforcement of this requirement will begin on October 1st 2020.[1]

[1] https://www.dhs.gov/news/2019/04/04/tsa-reminds-travelers-re...

If your state doesn't have a compatible DL it may be worth it to get a passport card.

(I like them because they don't have an address on them. Less info leaking every time I buy a beer)

Real ID is separate and has been in the works for 15 years. Nothing in that press release says that facial recognition is going to be used for domestic air travel.

I've flown without ID in the last year. They just passed me to a guy who asked me a few questions while carefully watching my face when I answered, and swiped my fingers for explosive residue. I had an old prescription bottle in my bag and they asked for that, but a laser printer could make a trivial copy of the label if I had ill intent.

I didn't opt out though and I suspect that may have been more difficult.

The passport is to prove US citizenship. Otherwise you cannot reasonably distinguish between permanent residents and citizens. Both can have a driver's license. Visa holders can have a driver's license too but it mentions the expiration date of your visa.

This is not true. There’s no need to distinguish permanent residents from citizens because both have the exact same rights concerning domestic flights.

> The passport is to prove US citizenship.

That's an incredibly flawed thing to ask for with domestic flights, though. Most US citizens don't have a passport at all.

A birth certificate or social security card would probably suffice, too.

Not a social security card, as it is explicitly not a valid ID. It even says so on the card.

AFAIK this is only for international travel, so you should be bringing your passport with you regardless.

The article says otherwise.

I'm fairly sure the article is wrong. I looked at 3 of the sources they link (Delta, Jet Blue, and the ZDnet article), and they say that the "biometric exit program" is only for flights entering or leaving the US.

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.



Isn’t a passport just a basic photo ID? Seems reasonable to ask for on to check people are who they say they are. Everyone already has a passport.

I don't know about everyone but I just looked and was shocked to learn 42% of Americans have passports, 10X the level 25 years ago.

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 would guesstimate that 90% of international travel done by Americans is to either Mexico or Canada, which didn't require a passport 25 years ago.

They still don't for many Americans, and vice versa. If you live in one of many border states or provinces, enhanced licenses can be really convenient.

> Personally I rarely carry any ID at all

I do usually carry ID, but (except for flying) I can't remember the last time I actually had to show it to anybody.

If you ever pass out and wake up in a hospital, its nice to have one on you.

Why? My driver’s license does not indicate whom to call nor whether I am insured or not. It has an address but that is not where I live (mail cannot be delivered to my home even though it’s in Palo Alto, so no law is being broken).

My back of my phone has a label with my kid’s phone number on it.

On the other hand, they can’t bill you if they don’t know who you are

> 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!

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.?

I never make a big deal of it, just say casually, "sorry, I don't have any ID with me". If they really want something I hand over a credit card or business card. In general nobody really has a need for ID and would rather not lose your business. You show up with an Amex platinum card and a haircut no hotel is going to deny you a room just because you don't have ID.

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.

> 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".

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.

Like when someone asks for an address I simply give the address of the place I am (i.e. the shop asking for it). This works online too, Again, because the person asking (or the person who wrote the web form) typically isn't the person who made the rule, so rather than make life difficult I just inject chaff into the system.

Wow that was interesting, thanks for sharing! The question I was asking regarding how long it takes etc. was for the airport -- I thought they verify your ID otherwise somehow? By asking you questions or something? Do they really merely pat you down and look at your luggage without verifying who you are?

Pretty much; they ask a few questions but really what would they know to ask?

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.

Yeah I don't like it either, but doesn't that delay you in the airport a lot? I thought they take you to some room to do their questioning and that it can take half an hour to an hour. Do you just go early in expectation this/find it to be worth it?

> some federal courthouses for some reason

That's interesting. I wonder what happens if you're a defendant and they won't let you in the building?

Well your probably compelled to be there, so all the consequences of being a no show is what would effectively happen, or a police escort of some sort if your the kind of person with no id.

>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.?

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.

Wow thanks!

Do not assume all people have a passport. In the US, there is not much reason to get a passport unless you plan to travel internationally. Due to the high cost of international travel, I would imagine only a small percentage of lower income individuals have a passport. Even getting a passport is expensive. When you think about it, requiring a passport to opt out of facial recognition screening essentially discriminates against lower income people, including the poor and the elderly on fixed incomes.

US Passports are not especially cheap and expire after 10 years, so if you have no international travel plans it doesn't make sense to get one.

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.

And the renewal process for young children requires all the same stuff AGAIN. Two parents, original birth certificates etc. No idea why they can't just use the old passport information with an updated photo. They expire every five years too, so that's three difficult trips involved and a fair bit of expense.

Yeah, but there have been horror stories about one parent who takes the children back to their home country. Typically it's been the dad back to Saudia Arabia but maybe that's just the stories that made the news.

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.

Many citizens who haven't traveled internationally don't have a passport. My American wife and most members of her family have never had occasion to get one. This is a general problem to be solved, though: occasionally videos surface of Border Patrol agents detaining people until they produce proof they're a citizen. Now, green-card and visa holders are indeed required to carry said documents with them. But citizens are not required to carry proof of their citizenship. So the statistics are actually such that a random person not having proof of legal status in the US is more likely to be here legally than not.

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.

>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.

Less than half of Americans have a passport. [1] And it has nothing to do with photo ID, it's the fact that they forced the states to adopt REAL ID under the pretenses that they would make photo IDs more reliable and difficult to fake (back in 2005), and now they're using the photos they collected to create a facial recognition system.

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.

[1] https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/after/p...

> Everyone already has a passport.

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.

If you have never travelled outside the US you might not have a passport.

True story. Until a few years ago the only place outside the US that I had gone was Canada, so a passport was not needed. Well, I had a trip coming up to a country other than Canada so I finally had to get a passport. Upon beginning the return trip, I was stopped at security. Before I boarded the plane, I was magic wanded ... again. Not wanting to be one of "those" Americans I held my tongue. Upon landing back in the US, I got stopped again at security. Back on home ground I could be as belligerent as I cared to be. But they just ignored me and went about their search.

Only thing I could think was it was a new passport. Pissed me off though. That's just stupid.

>Everyone already has a passport.

I'm pretty sure most native born citizens don't get passports unless and until they make plans to travel internationally.

Isn’t that risky - what if you suddenly have to travel with business and there’s a delay getting a passport?

The vast majority of the population will never have that situation arise. It seems reasonable that if your job comes with such a risk, you should have a passport -- but you're still talking about a minority of the citizenry.

Not really? If I work in food service or retail (largest employment sectors), why is my job going to make me travel to Canada? Most people are only leaving the country for pleasure. That's not to say your scenario couldn't exist, it's just not common I would imagine.

If you travel to certain state department locations, you can get a next-day passport easily (and I’ve heard of people getting same day). I got one in 4 days and the employees there acted like that was on the long side of the spectrum of people who appeared in person.

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).

This is a sincere question: what's your background that you have such a skewed perspective of US travel tendencies?

In the UK almost everyone gets a passport as a baby and never lets it lapse for the rest of their lives. Seems like a basic bit of freedom to have.

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.

Ah, from your other comments I thought you were an American for some reason. That makes sense.

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.

> I assumed Americans would want the same kind of basic freedom to move between countries?

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.

> 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

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?

There's a number of factors related to that, I think. I'm engaging in informed speculation here, based on my experiences with my fellow citizens.

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.)

No, you would not get a real funny look. I've traveled internationally on business, and whenever I hear anyone (including myself) asked to travel, they'll ask if you have a passport or if you have a current passport. Yes, working in tech, in a major metro city.

If it were the case that someone worked a job where they'd need to go on an international business trip last minute then their employer would require having a current passport as a condition of employment.

This is a feature. "Oh, sorry Mr. Boss, I can't go on that trip because I don't have a passport"

I managed to get out of a business trip that way once!

If you have to travel for business, you can, at least in Canada, pay a premium processing fee to skip the queue.

that has happened repeatedly to people at my last few jobs. they simply didn't travel.

You find it normal to carry around passports for domestic travel? How often do you travel?

I travel with work a lot. Seems normal to carry some ID like a passport when travelling, to me.

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.

> Seems normal to carry some ID like a passport when travelling, to me.

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.

I'd venture to say 99.9% of Americans will never find themselves traveling internationally at the drop of a hat, without being able to return home first (!)

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.

You’re atypical. People don’t usually have that happen to them (the domestic to international).

I got the impression they fly international and didn't see we're talking about domestic.

The passport is a physically-robust booklet, while the drivers license is a comparatively fragile card. I can put the printed boarding pass in the passport, so it's easy to present to the TSA agent. As to how often I travel, I barely got to 10 nights on my highest-status hotel loyalty program, so I guess that means I travel some, but not lots.

Do you break your Driver's License frequently? Mine is a tough laminated card. I've never had a situation where I thought it was going to be damaged.

Confused what the robustness of the passport has to do with this. I wasn't suggesting the physical flexibility of a passport makes it harder to carry it around or something. People generally just don't carry around passports for domestic travel in their own countries... people already have other IDs, this increases the chance you'll lose your passport, etc. for zero benefit.

>People generally just don't carry around passports for domestic travel in their own countries

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.

This has nothing to do with public transport. People here in Switzerland often carry ID cards or residence cards, and this seems common in many European countries similar to drivers licenses in the US and Canada. You also don't need to know how to drive to get a valid state ID in most states, as far as I know.

Britain and Denmark are the only EU countries that don't issue identity cards.

Britain has a proof of age card, but 10 years ago it wasn't recognized very well: http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk/

Surely you realize the UK is well-known to take an unusual approach to ID issuance (or should I say lack thereof)?

Everyone? I've had once since birth, but it's foolish to think "Everyone already has a passport". As of 2018, only a ~1/3 of US citizens (137,588,631) have an active passport: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/after/p...

I don't have a passport. If I needed one I'd get one, but the need has yet to arise.

Isn't a state driver's license considered a basic photo ID? There's no reason not to accept one.

Some states have still not gotten with the times and converted to "Real ID" security in their driver's licenses. Because they're easier to fake, they're not always accepted but YMMV.

That's one spin on it, but more fear-mongered.

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".

Well, this requirement makes sense from a federal perspective, and the ridiculous saga that ensued over getting states to comply (including the seemingly incompetent ones, looking at you California...) points to the "problem" of not having a federal universally accessible ID, including for proof of residence and/or citizenship.

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.

I genuinely wonder how much xenophobic fear-mongering you would have to drum up in order to get the "Don't Tread On Me" camp to agree to mandatory federal ID. I think you're right, it's much easier to just slip it in on the state level with Licenses.

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.

Anyone remember when we liked to proclaim how we had freedom in this country by using the example that we didn't require "travel papers" for internal travel?

Papers, please, comrade.

That proclamation was forgotten as soon as the Cold War ended.

Fun fact: the passport gates at UK airports appear to be biometric, but aren't. You step into a little gate, place your passport photo page down onto a scanner, and look into a camera for a photograph.

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.[1]

[1] https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2018-09/O...

Interesting, I just went through Heathrow, both inbound (US to UK connection to Glasgow, then UK to US connection back). At the in-bound border control, there was a passport scan and photo, then at the gate, that photo was displayed and a second photo was taken. In my case it also was flagged and delayed my boarding while the gate agent manually told the system “he’s ok”. The agent repeatedly had me move around so the system could retake the gate photo, trying to get the gate photo to register as a match to the border control photo. Or, so I believed. Based on your comment, this was all pure theater?

I can only comment on inbound for UK passport holders on the way back into the country. There is no matching to a previous photo: you are scanning your passport and having a photo taken of your face simultaneously, whereupon the box fires up on the screen of a guy behind the desk. (You can actually see their screens as you walk past, with all the photos flashing up for them to approve.)

So, you haven't encountered the photo at the gate? Just at security or border? Weird. Pretty sure the flow for me was... De-plane in Terminal 5, follow signs to Connections, through border control (non-EU), immediately enter automated passport scan/photo machine, re-enter gate-side Terminal 5. Then, at boarding gate, there was another photo machine which appeared to matching that photo with the one taken back at the border check.

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.

I haven't at gate, no. At Newark a couple months ago they had an automated TSA-type check at security which was capturing fingerprints, but I can't quite remember the specifics (feels like the last few months have been either a state of experiencing, or recovering from, jetlag).

Inverness is great btw!

I just need to remember that the check-in agents at small Scottish airports don't arrive until 90 min before the first flight of the day. Even if the first flight is 11am. It was pretty weird getting there at 9 and the BA desk was empty with no lights on. I ran into the same thing at Edinburgh a few years ago, but my habit is 2 hours before flights because I've been screwed by long security lines at IAD in the past.

I was told that many of them are also not automated, but manned behind the scenes, Mechanical Turk style.

That's exactly right (and what I was trying to say!) :)

What’s up with the UK acting like they are more technologically advanced than they are? They do the same thing with the TV License detection vans.

TV Detection Vans do appear to be able to detect televisions in operation.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TV_detector_van

They delete the photo after 12 hours, but probably not the measurements for recognition.

I'm always wary about this; when companies say they delete the bio-metric photos. They may delete the photos (even if they actually shred the photos), but they are still training a bio-metric model to better identify you before the photos are deleted.

> 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.


> cannot be reverse-engineered by anyone outside of CBP to reconstruct the photo

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?

I would assume it is using some sort of public-private key encryption to generate the fingerprints. I say this because they say "anyone outside of CBP." So with the proper key, and fingerprint, you can probably reconstruct a photo, or some sort of deepmind type image.

Be mindful that "delete" does not necessarily equate to "shred" [1]. There is no information available to determine if their use of "delete" means "set a Boolean flag that means 'deleted' to true" vs. "literally destroy the data so it can never be recovered" (the 'shred' [1] method).

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shred_(Unix)

I wonder if an FOIA request could reveal what metrics/data are actually being stored?

> They delete the photo after 12 hours

The claim they do this. Who knows if they really do?

It seems like the only effect of the opt-out option is to smooth over controversy. I wonder who went through the charade of pushing for the opt-out and treating it as a victory.

Ikr, "opt out" for the government means, put on theatre to act like people can opt out.

By the way the whole idea of passports is barely a century old and was a temporary measure for WWI.

Beware scope creep.

The possibility of travel changed so much, it's not strange that border controls changed as well

Didn't it just replace a patchwork mess of systems used by countries beforehand?

Prior to WWI, European border controls had pretty much dissolved (Prisoner of Zenda notwithstanding). The history section of the Wikipedia page on passports is pretty good though mostly Europe-oriented.

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.

Having just gone through Heather, where facial ID is used at security and gates, I hate that the US is rolling it out. Not because I care about the photos - I’m in public, snap away - but because it doesn’t fucking work. Neither my wife nor I were recognized by the system that snapped our photo 60 minutes earlier, which caused delayed boarding, confusion with the gate agents, stress for me, and aggravated other passengers (who were stuck behind me as the agent tried to decide why the system didn’t want me to board). It was a ducking mess.

Sure, be prepared for a cavity search and your name on a "he thinks he's a smart ass" list.

I'm sure that most of us that will opt-out of this type of thing are already on that particular list.

I opt for a pat-down every time. I doubt this will put me on any worse of a list.

Thanks for sharing OP!

Glad I'm not the only one. Still haven't been through one of those scanners.

I stopped opting out because I didn't see the point to continue. The opt-out moment is over. One could argue it contributed to getting rid of the more dangerous backscatter devices, but the millimeter waves remain. If it comes back for another reason I will rejoin for the duration. But I personally am not so shy that I care about a body scan. It seemed upon reflection that it was just vanity or resentment on my point to continue, and I was just inconveniencing myself.

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.

> I was just inconveniencing myself.

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.

me too. those peeping tom machines are such a farce in the overall tragedy that is security theater.
turk73 11 days ago [flagged]

Yes, thanks L3 Systems and asshat Chertoff for creating the "shoe bomber" and getting your shit sold. Enjoy your billions and rot in hell.

I'd guess most people here agree with your underlying view, but please don't post in this flamewar/ranty style to HN. It lowers signal/noise and encourages worse from others.


How is this worse, privacy-wise, than taking naked images of you with mm-waves when you try and get on a plane? Its just improving the efficiency of the existing system. If we're going to have border controls, why not make them work as well as we can?

> How is this worse, privacy-wise, than taking naked images of you with mm-waves when you try and get on a plane?

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 [1]. It's not a stretch to take the models, hardware, experience and scans CBP builds and use them in the interior.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Customs_and_Border_Protec...

I guess it just seems odd that we'd support actively limiting technological capability, rather than focusing on laws and policies that law enforcement should obey. It reminds me of the law in California that prevents police from using automated speed traps, so officers need to spend all this time and expense pulling people over for speeding, which leads to subjectivity, and ends up just being a waste of everyones time. If people really don't want speed limits, they should be raised or abolished.

> rather than focusing on laws and policies that law enforcement should obey.

There is a very long history in the US demonstrating that such laws aren't terribly effective.

> You’ll need your U.S. passport with you — even if you’re flying domestically.

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.

Can you, really? How do you opt out of the government giving the original data to airlines in the first place?


> 75 years for non-citizens

WTF?! Years? Seriously? I hope to hell that is a typo.

If you are Nexus/Global Entry and use Clear they already have your finger print, biometrics and retina scan. Might as well add facials to that... no wait that sounds wrong. LOL

Convenience or privacy, it's a tough choice to make. I'm thankful for Global Entry / Clear having to travel most weeks for work

Same, worth the tradeoff when you get to zip right past huge lines, and with the added pre-check, makes going in and out of MCO a hell of a lot easier.

Anyone ever seen Face Off (1997) with good ole Nick Cage?! Here we go...

The pieces of the puzzle that all go together:

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?

> full fingerprints for REAL ID.

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.

>I'm surprised they didn't require full fingerprints for REAL ID.

They do in California!

California has required a thumb print for a drivers license since 1982.

Technically "right thumb, or left thumb if you have no right thumb, or another finger if you have no thumbs".

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.

Even if porting in your DL from another state?

Wouldn't that violate the driver's license compact? (IANAL)


Is this true for all drivers? When I moved to California and got my driver's license I don't remember having my thumb print taken. I've even considered it a badge of honor that I've never given my fingerprints to the man.

> Enhanced Passport--the requirements for getting the photo include not wearing glasses and not smiling, ostensibly so that their algorithm works better.

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.

In Georgia they’ve been requiring a finger print in some cases for some time. Not all fingers but I remember my index and/or thumb being scanned. I let my license expire and had to go through the joys of trying to prove my address and other stuff like the finger scan.

It's been incredibly in your face if you aren't a privileged white person since basically the dawn of the country, with a small period of kind-of-not-really-thoufh improvement around WWII. Workers rights have always been shat on, being poor sucks and keeps getting worse with every year that m4a isn't a thing, and being a visible minority obviously also sucks what with the whole police murdering you thing or ICE gestapo knocking on your door etc.

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.

That seems like hyperbole to me. Remember, we live in a republican democracy. Yes, it works slowly (by design). But, it works. At least we don’t have a totalitarian state to deal with.

I used to be skeptical of this stuff, too. Then, we had 18 years of no major terrorist attacks.

> 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":




None of those meet the “Major” criteria.

Nothing can fit a criteria someone makes up on the spot in response to counter-arguments.

58 dead and 851 injuries isn't major?

It’s a lot. But, in comparison to how many people die in a year? No, not really.

Plus, the original topic is about foreign threats, not domestic.

> But, in comparison to how many people die in a year? No, not really.

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 think OP's point is that many of the tools necessary for a totalitarian state are in place. The Stasi and NKVD would have loved tools like this. America once aspired to something other than "papers please".

Luckily, everyone wants their personal freedoms and few people want to take others’ freedoms away [1]. So, it comes down to our personal duty (or will) to oversee our government. Unfortunately, that’s hard to do electronically.

I hope my down-voters are very active in organizations that scrutinize our government. Otherwise, I see some hypocrisy.

[1] 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?)

I downvoted your initial post. I find it disingenous at best, and dangerous at worst, to suggest that increases in monitoring and govt. power are to thank for any trends in terrorist activity. (Not to mention factually incorrect, boston bomber was in 2015, just to name one)

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 completely agree. And, I have sincere respect for your efforts. I hope your actions motivate more to do the same.

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.

>and few people want to take other peoples’ freedoms away

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.

> America once aspired to something other than "papers please".

If you're reading this, I highly recommend the game Papers Please[0]. It's not... fun per se, but it is engaging and very interesting. Definitely worth a try.

[0]: http://www.papersplea.se/

> Then, we had 18 years of no major terrorist attacks.

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.

How do we not have a totalitarian state?

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.

You forgot a few:

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.

What you're describing is authoritarian, not totalitarian. A totalitarian state has only one political party with all others being banned.

Does an impenetrable and indiscernible duopoly count? I'm pretty sure the US only has two flavors of one "continuous war" party that serves the military/corporate interests that conduct 24/7 electronic surveillance of everyone in power.

Have you ever contacted your federal representatives? Who is your representative? I’ll contact them for you.

> It's illegal to not let the state know where you habitually sleep (state ID/driver's license requirements).

Today I learned the government expects me to sleep in my PO Box.

Yeah, that claim is wrong on a couple of levels. The requirement in at least three states for ID or a DL is that you provide an address you can receive mail at. It doesn't have to be where you live.

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.

Oh, you’re not American? Kind of overstepping a little.

> Then, we had 18 years of no major terrorist attacks.

Is this directly because of DHS, et al.?

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