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The Constitution Applies When the Government Bans Americans From the Skies (aclu.org)
422 points by ahmadss on June 18, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 201 comments



Our brief highlighted the utter irrationality of the government's No Fly List procedures. The plaintiffs in Latif all flew for years without any problems. But more than two years ago, they were suddenly branded as suspected terrorists based on secret evidence, publicly denied boarding on flights, and told by U.S. and airline officials that they were banned from flying¾perhaps forever.

One of the reasons that I'm not too attached to the specific details of the Snowden story (aside from supporting him, of course) is that it's just a piece of a much larger picture. Snowden's "NSA direct server access" is but a tiny speck in an ocean of civil liberties problems.

In this case, the government is effectively using a quasi-military/police force to control who can travel the country. (Yes, I know you can drive, but for business travelers, air travel is many times the lifeblood of their work) People are banned from traveling, in many cases from performing their livelihoods. They do not know how they got on the list. They cannot get off the list.

In charge of all of this is an agency, best I can tell, that has a mission of making all transportation safe from random terror attacks.

It's insane. Aside from not protecting anybody, can you begin to imagine the ways such a system could be abused? It staggers the mind.

There are probably around 100 people in the entire country that shouldn't fly. But the way this no-fly list is constructed, it will continue to increase year-by-year, without any incentive to pare the numbers back. Is anybody doing the math on the kind of economic impact such a system will have over a few decades?

I've said it before. We need to completely disband the TSA. Structural adjustments are not going to fix its scope creep, conflict of interest with the military industrial complex, and lack of competence. It's just gotta go.


"They do not know how they got on the list. They cannot get off the list."

The default description of the Surveillance State is "Orwellian". But in a recent post for the Atlantic, Rebecca Rosen argues that "Kafkaesque" is much closer to the mark. The arbitrary, inscrutable, and inescapable nature of the No Fly List encapsulates this character perfectly.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/06/why-sh...


Orwell, Kafka, Huxley, others, all had great insights.

Sadly, John Brunner doesn't get much love. His novels greatly influenced my worldviews.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shockwave_Rider

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sheep_Look_Up


I've always thought of no-fly lists as completely out of place in a democracy. Either you have enough evidence to charge them with something or you have no business restricting them from doing anything.


Exactly. And if you have enough evidence to charge them with a crime, then you should do so and take the person to court. And if they are found guilty by a jury of their peers, punishment should be assessed. If not, the person is innocent and should not be inconvenienced or harassed further.

No citizen should be victim of unknown charges and/or evidence that impacts their free movement through society.


> No citizen should be victim of unknown charges and/or evidence that impacts their free movement through society.

Why should I need to be a citizen to not have my human rights violated? If it is in the UN Declaration of Human Rights[1] then chances are your country signed it, agreed that would be the minimum standard, that these rights were inalienable and most importantly, that they applied to everyone.

You have to admit it seems a bit silly (at least from my side of the pond) that when it comes to human rights the US seems to ignore the UNDoHR and when it comes to it's international drug policy it enforces the UN Single Drug Convention all over the world with aggression to the point that no country in the world besides Peru can even make cannabis legal in their own nation state without violating international law (which WILL be enforced).

[1] http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/


I completely agree with you. Unfortunately--unless I'm wildly mistaken--the very sad thing about American culture/politics is a lack of concern for the UNDoHR and everyone else on the planet.

That being said, I specifically did not say 'US citizen' for a reason. I was being inclusive about a general human right as a citizen anywhere to freely move through a society anywhere. It was a conscious choice on my part, and was meant to be more along the lines of the UNDoHR. So, I meant human citizen, as there are very few stateless persons (yes, there are some, but I'm not really bothering to get into that issue).


> Unfortunately--unless I'm wildly mistaken--the very sad thing about American culture/politics is a lack of concern for the UNDoHR and everyone else on the planet.

It's not that Americans don't care about anyone else on the planet (I doubt they care less than people in Western European countries). It's that Americans aren't willing to bind their sovereign freedom of action. The idea of "human citizen[ship]" is anathama to American thought, because citizenship implies reciprocal rights and obligations, and Americans viscerally hate the idea of being obligated or beholden to anyone else. Hell, a lot of Americans think that the arrow should be pointed in the opposite direction: more state sovereignty (i.e. people within states should be less obligated to rules made by the federal government).


To this American, you are only half right. I fully embrace the same natural rights for all people, regardless of nationality. I think my government is ethically constrained from violating the rights of all individuals, U.S. citizen or not. And yes, I support state sovereignty over the federal government.

Recognition of and respect for human rights need not be bound to sovereign freedom of action, as you put it. Freedom of action does not have to imply freedom to coerce.


I don't think most Americans would think of the situation in terms of "natural rights." They might think of Christian morality, in terms of how we should treat other people, but I don't think the Bible has much to say about search and seizure, or electronic privacy, etc.

And for myself, I don't like to argue in terms of any sort of thing, "natural rights" or "God's law" or whatever, that a doctor couldn't find if he cut me open and poked around. To me, the ability to act is the only thing that exists, and "rights" are just people in a community agreeing to use collective force to enforce whatever they decide to call "rights." The idea that the community as a whole can be bound to limit its ability to act with respect to people outside that compact is to me not a sensible thing.

And I think that while most Americans wouldn't phrase it precisely in that way, their thinking is along similar lines. We're a country that strenuously reserves the right to do whatever the hell we want, bound only by our own collective conscience. We want to do right by people, but we get to be the final arbiters of what's right and what is justified.


> I don't think most Americans would think of the situation in terms of "natural rights."

The folks who architected this nation most certainly did, and since they're the ones who devised the sovereignty of the states and embodied the individualism and self-reliance and runs undercurrent to your claim that Americans "hate the idea of being obligated or beholden to anyone else" I think it's perfectly fair to characterize the debate in those terms. And they did in fact see these as universal rights: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

Anyways, specifically I take issue with your claim that "the idea of "human citizen[ship]" is anathama to American thought, because citizenship implies reciprocal rights and obligations." Obligations, yes, but it does not follow that the extension of our recognized rights to all people is in any way contradictory to our ideals, your personal views on collective rights notwithstanding.


You have to be careful mixing and matching bits and pieces of philosophy from different groups of people in different time periods. The framers did talk about natural rights, but you need look no further than their interactions with the American Indians to understand that when they talked about "natural rights" they were more referring to rights inherent to Englishmen than rights common to all humans. To put it glibly, do you think the framers would have objected to using drones against the American Indian threat?

> but it does not follow that the extension of our recognized rights to all people is in any way contradictory to our ideals

No matter what theory of the nature of rights you subscribe to, as a practical matter "rights" are limits on collective action. To say that, say, a non-American in Yemen has "rights" is to say that there are things that the American people, acting through Congress, cannot do. That is what is inconsistent with Americans' perceptions of the world. Not because we think people in Yemen are a lesser sort of human, but because Americans don't accept the idea that there is some higher power that can decide what America can and cannot do.


You are wildly mistaken.

Don't believe everything you see in the news or from opinion polls.


My problem with things like the UDHR is that it is worded in a way as that the document provides these freedoms to human beings. This implies that simply changing the document can possibly take these rights away. That's the idea behind the language of the US Constitution (the Bill of Rights at least), it seems to provide rights to the people but instead restricts the government from infringing on the natural rights of the people.

For instance, the first article of the UDHR states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. What it should say is something more along the lines that no form of government may make a law that prevents any human from being born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Something like that.

Granted, it's possible to strike the article from the document regardless of which way it is worded but I personally like documents such as this to have language that government is restricted from infringing my rights as opposed to government telling me what rights I have.


There are no signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, since it is not a legally binding document. There is however the list of countries that voted for it, and the US is among those countries.

I wonder if this is still a country that would vote for such a document. We plainly have no respect for the ideas that it represents.


Do you wonder if the people would vote for it or the government? Because I see those as two different things.


Well, the government did vote for it, we know that much from history. I think the people would vote for it, I am optimistic and think that most people have their hearts in the right places.

Would the government vote for it again, if voting for it was anything other than a meaningless gesture? I suspect not. Not if it actually had teeth.


It's worth noting that there's a big difference between appreciating and agreeing with the ideals in the UNDoHR and being willing to vote in an election or poll that explicitly or implicitly legitimizes the UN's authority to govern.


Great point and agreed, with one correction. Democracy does not offer any guarantees of freedom, and fortunately we have a constitution which was intended to set limits on encroachment of individual rights.

To quote Marvin Simkin, "Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote."

The same argument could be made for felon's rights, by the way. Either a person is too dangerous to be free or you have no business taking away his rights.


The only reason you have a constitution is because the "wolves" (the majority) voluntarily and democratically accepts it. A constitution doesn't guarantee anything, it merely expresses the democratic consensus, and it can and is overridden when the majority really wants to.


> The only reason you have a constitution is because the "wolves" (the majority) voluntarily and democratically accepts it.

No, this is not the case. The power of the majority over the minority is limited by the constitution - the Bill of Rights proscribes the oppression of the minority at the hands of the voting majority. The constitution itself is protected from the majority (the government) by the credible threat of a well-armed populace who are willing to fight to protect it.


the majority (the government)

Oh. That's certainly not what I understood from the quote. How is the government the majority? And then, what's the oppressed minority? The other members of congress?

I always understood that quote to mean the majority, as in, the majority of the population. Otherwise it's mixing majorities and minorities of different things, which makes no sense.


> That's certainly not what I understood from the quote. How is the government the majority?

In the U.S. the law making branch of the government is comprised of representatives elected by the people. These representatives necessarily draft laws to suit the majority who elected them. Ergo, the legislative branch wields power at the behest of the majority, analogous to the wolves in the quote. Governance by mob rule, i.e. pure democracy, entails no inherent constraints on what the government (comprised of law makers elected by the majority) could do to or take from the rest of the populace. We are, instead, a constitutional republic, which constrains the majority-elected government to a narrow set of powers enumerated in the constitution.

The quote was written in 1992 in reference to two lawsuits in the state of California, itself a constitutional republic. One resulted in the quashing of a state law which was supported by the majority but nonetheless violated the state and federal constitutions. The other resulted in the removal of a cross from a popular public landmark. Much outcry was made at the time that the will of the majority was being thwarted.

I'll leave here the entirety of Simkin's posting that contained the quote:

The ACLU's cross lawsuit and the Libertarians' tax lawsuit share an interesting theme. We have been treated to the spectacle of politicians pleading for permission to continue breaking the law. In the case of the jail tax, it is particularly ironic that the lawbreakers say they need the illegal money so they can lock up the lawbreakers. Ask not for whom the lock clicks.

Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote. Those rights are spelled out in the Bill of Rights and in our California Constitution. Voters and politicians alike would do well to take a look at the rights we each hold, which must never be chipped away by the whim of the majority.


Ok, then I hadn't misunderstood.

The constitution only "protected" the minority - by limiting government action - because the majority shares a democratic consensus that those rules should be followed, even if they go against some particular law they support. Otherwise, they could have simply forced the issue, even in violation of the constitution. Besides, the constitutions themselves have ways for the majority to amend them.

The constitution is just a mechanism for the citizens to have a better defined set of shared democratic beliefs. It doesn't have magical protection powers.


The quote was indeed referring to the government acting as the agent of the majority, if that's the misunderstanding you are referring to.

Yes, of course the Constitution is simply a piece of paper. It has no special powers. You can find plenty of people, perhaps even a majority, who are in favor of incremental abuses of the government such as this latest NSA scandal. You would find very few who would support wholesale dissolution of the constitution. The government could try absent consent of the people, but would face certain rebellion.

The Constitution can of course be amended, but requires more than a simple majority - a super-majority of the federal legislature to pass and ratification by 3/4 of the states. This of course does not happen often.

But fundamentally, of course the Constitution and the government exist at the behest of the people. It does not have magical protection powers. It does, however, have the protection of an armed populace willing to fight to defend it, even though some of those same people support laws that infringe on other's rights.


The constitution is a simple majority away from being nullified at all times. Simply elect a president and congress who will do the bidding of the majority, regardless of the constitution, and the judicial branch gets steamrolled.

That's what's terrifying about the surveillance. While it could be genuinely benign right now, it only takes one bad election to put the equipment in the hands of very bad people who could do amazingly bad things with it.


I'm not sure this principle works in reality. It seems to entail that somebody who fails their driving exam must still be allowed to drive and that somebody with no training should be able to advertise himself as a surgeon.

(Just in case anybody didn't follow the above: Failing an exam or lacking training are not crimes you can be charged with, so under the principle "Either you have enough evidence to charge them with something or you have no business restricting them from doing anything," we have no business restricting anyone from doing anything on those bases.)


"Either you have enough evidence to charge them with something or you have no business restricting them from doing anything," we have no business restricting anyone from doing anything on those bases.)

I imagine what the OP meant was that you have no business restricting them from doing anything otherwise lawful if they have not been charged with a crime (for example travelling or calling someone etc). Otherwise the statement is nonsensical and means they don't accept civil society and the rule of law (your interpretation).

This is a founding principle of many legal systems - that laws and restrictions have to be clearly explained and open to challenge, and judgements have to be public - and yet it has been violated in the West for some time by no-fly lists and watch-lists which have no way of being challenged, no explanation as to why people end up on them, and often no way to get off.


> It seems to entail that somebody who fails their driving exam must still be allowed to drive and that somebody with no training should be able to advertise himself as a surgeon.

Yes, it absolutely does. Life as a free person is dangerous, and being free necessarily means not being protected from potential harm caused by others. It means people are held responsible after the fact, but not restrained prior.


If that's what you think, you are welcome to your opinion, but I don't believe you'll find a lot of popular support for the idea that unlicensed drivers and fake surgeons are things we should embrace.


I don't see freedom requiring to embrace such things. Freedom doesn't mean you can do anything you feel like doing, that's anarchy. Freedom means you can do whatever you like that does not infringe upon the rights of the person next to you. You can't make other people slaves to your freedom.

The difference I would say about your examples is that the actions of those people will potentially infringe directly upon the rights of others so there is probable cause for prior restraint. But even in those cases you can point out that the person wishes to perform a singular direct action without adequate training on another person that will most likely result in the harming of that person. You are at least accusing that person of wanting to do something that will likely be bad, with evidence to back it up, since performing surgery without training is a bad idea. I'm sure you can find examples of why it's a bad idea.

I would see that as quite different than preventing a person from boarding an aircraft with absolutely no evidence or, in some cases, even an accusation of any wrongdoing.


Why does a person on a public road infringe on rights but not a person on a plane in public airspace? In both cases, the idea seems to be "You can't use this public conduit if we believe you'd be an unreasonable danger to the other people around." Neither requires a trial.


Because they are two very different things.

When driving a car you are the operator and need to show you can do so safely without harming others on the public road. You are not required to have a license to be a passenger in a car on a public road.

When flying in an aircraft you are a passenger and therefore no license is required. But be assured that guy up front flying the airplane has his pilot's license that shows they are capable of doing so safely.

When you are restricted from driving on a public road due to lack of a license that is society actively accusing you of being a danger to everyone else. The issue you are trying to compare this to are people being on a no-fly list that don't know why they are on this list and no one will tell them.

That's the main difference, the accusation. If the police were confiscating driver's licenses from people and forcing them to walk instead of driving without explanation, then that would be the same thing.

Now, if you have a history of attempting to bring down airplanes while in flight while you were on board, then they could rightfully restrict you from entering any other planes. At least in that case there's the accusation.

But I don't understand your thought of being restricted without trial as a strange concept. It's done all the time. Try to enter a restricted government building or a military base without permission and see how far you get. Even better, enter a stranger's house and see what happens. There are numerous restrictions in a free society that in essence helps maintain that freedom. Assuming that these restrictions are placed equally on everyone then that person next to you is restricted from doing things to you that you won't like just as much as you are restricted from doing them to him.

Of course, these restrictions can get oppressive and abusive if allowed to get out of hand.


It may not be illegal to fail a driving exam, but it is illegal to drive without a license. You acquire said license by passing the exam.


Which means that we are restricting them from driving without having charged them with anything. Which is what we're talking about here.


Actually you can drive a vehicle all you want without a license as long as you don't do it on a public road. The license doesn't allow you to drive a vehicle; it allows you to use public roads that have certain rules, for safety mostly, associated with them. Your license proves that you understand said rules and will obey them while on the public road. A lack of a license shows you cannot be bothered to follow the rules and are a danger to everyone else on the road. Therefore, you must be removed from the road for the safety of the others. Preventing an unlicensed driver from using a public road is more about the other people on the road than the single driver. Your freedom doesn't allow you to be a danger to others.

For instance, in many US states you are not required to have a license to operate farm equipment on a public road. There's likely many reasons for this but the rules of the road in those areas do not restrict you in those cases.

If I had a large enough tract of land that a shortcut going through the middle was beneficial to people around the property I can put up a sign at the entrance that states if you wish to use my road on my land then you follow my rules. It's the same principle.

Also, many a young teenager legally learned to drive a vehicle, cars or motorcycles, on private land even though it would be illegal for them to do so on a public road.


Freedom does not mean you are allowed to do or refrain everything you want because you have to respect the freedom of everybody else. Therefore your freedom ends when it limits the freedom of somebody else. It is not hard to argue that you are (probably) limiting the freedom of other people to walk safely across streets when you are driving without license or after having a few drinks. Freedom and prohibitions are not mutual exclusive.


1. The exam is qualifying you to operate heavy machinery in public.

2. You can re-take the exam if you fail it the first time.

3. You can operate a bicycle or be a passenger on any bus or train without a driver's license.

Your argument is not applicable. Riding a plane does not involve operating a giant machine on a public road around other giant machines and pedestrians.


It is a restriction from operating a particular piece of machinery on (essentially) public land, isnt it? You can still travel by the same mechanism as long as you are not the one operating it.

That seems fairly different from restricting travel by air.


No, we're not. We're just saying that if they get caught driving without a license, they'll likely be prosecuted for that offense. They're perfectly free to try not getting caught. People on the no-fly list will be physically restrained from boarding a plane.


Most constitutions include a right to speedy trial. One would think that that is because the framers had experience with secret courts, detention for political reasons &c. This institutional memory has been lost.


I am not sure what this has to do with what I said. Did you mean to respond to somebody else?


And what about their "we can search everything you have within a 100-mile radius of the border" policy? That's a huge civil liberties abuse too and one that must be dealt with.


That is not now and never has been the policy. The "100 mile Constitution free zone" is one of the most outrageously misleading fabrications on the internet. See: http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2013/02/does-a-constituti....

You can't leave out the crucial bit that it's all about border searches, for people who have recently crossed the border. All the policy means is that border searches don't literally have to occur at the border (they might be on a major cross-border thoroughfare somewhat inland).

The 4th amendment has never meant that the government or customs needs a warrant to search people at the border.


You can't leave out the crucial bit that it's all about border searches, for people who have recently crossed the border.

Are you suggesting that if I haven't recently crossed a border, I'm somehow immune to these searches, or have a right to refuse them?



Thanks for these. From the first article, according to a CBP spokesman:

“Although motorists are not legally required to answer the questions ‘are you a U.S. citizen and where are you headed,’ they will not be allowed to proceed until the inspecting agent is satisfied that the occupants of vehicles traveling through the checkpoint are legally present in the U.S.”

That suggests to me that CBP, at least, sees these stops as rather custodial.


That second article is definitely less than honest on some of its other points - for example, it turns out that drug dogs in the US alert when their handler wants them to rather than on finding drugs, so if the police have a drug dog with them they can effectively search the car of anyone they take a dislike to. I'm curious as to whether it's omitting important details about the DHS checkpoints too.


I'd like to know, why doesn't the 4th amendment mean that? It seems pretty clear, and there's no such exclusion listed.


The 4th amendment says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

It doesn't read: "all searches require a warrant except those specifically listed." The text plainly allows searches that are not "unreasonable."

As a matter of historical practice, borders searches, for customs purposes and otherwise, are considered reasonable. Warrant-less border searches were authorized by the First Congress in 1789.


Thanks. I have to wonder just how you can say that a search which would be unreasonable if performed at e.g. a county border becomes reasonable at a country border.


Because counties are administrative units, while countries are sovereign entities. One of the fundamental characteristics of a sovereign is the establishment and policing of a border. What it means to be a "country" is, among other things, some people getting together to use force to keep other people out. This was the framers' understanding of the world, a world of sovereign entities with borders and a right to police them. Within this framework of understanding, you can't say you don't reasonably expect not to be subject to a search when crossing a border. One of the basic purposes of the Constitution was to invest the federal government with primacy with respect to the national border: preserving it (collective defense), regulating the shipment of goods through it, taxing the shipment of goods through it (customs), etc.

Indeed, one of the primary ways the federal government was to be funded was through taxes on imports, which implies the existence of a customs function at the border. Do you think the framers envisioned a customs system that couldn't enforce its tariffs without getting a court order to search incoming ships? They obviously didn't envision that, because one of the first things Congress did was to set up the framework for warrant-less customs searches.


OK, I think that makes sense. I would generally object to an appeal to tradition like this, but it seems to me that the use of the word "reasonable" is basically an explicit call out to tradition, so I guess that's just how it's written.

Do you know what, if any, limits are placed on border searches? Is literally anything "reasonable" there, or are the limits just different?


The common law process is by its nature an appeal to tradition. If there is a governing principle in our society, it's "this is okay because we've always done it this way." Yes, in a way it's ridiculous because we end up arguing about what people thought about border searches in 1789, but that's the nature of our society. We don't come to a consensus to solve problems, because we never agree on anything. Instead, we litigate them and grudgingly accept the outcomes. That's why court cases feature so prominently in our culture (Brown v. Board, Roe v. Wade, etc). Non-Americans, understandably, usually find it utterly bizarre.

Re: border searches, I'm not well-versed so I'll just point you to the wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Border_search_exception. Long story short, it still has to be reasonable, it's just that the bar is lowered because you should expect to get searched at a border.


Because when the US was established, and still today, customs duties were levied on some imports - this was how the government used to finance itself. People who wanted to evade the customs duty (and then sell the goods to undercut their competitors who had paid it) would attempt to smuggle things across the border. This behavior is prevalent enough that random searches at national borders have been the norm for centuries, along with searches for other things like contraband (drugs, child porn, endangered animals), the occasional spy or fugitive from justice elsewhere, and so on.


You're right about what the 4th amendment really says, and it's so spectacularly inane that I would never believe that educated adults could be fooled if I hadn't seen it personally. It really does just say "the government cannot search you unless the government deems the search reasonable or the government writes a piece of paper saying that it can conduct a search." And people sincerely think that is in any way a protection of rights.


If you view the government as a single entity, then the whole concept is irrelevant since it can amend, or even simply ignore the constitution as whole.

As far as I understand it, the idea is that due to the separation of powers, the people who judge whether a particular search is reasonable are not the same who create and implement them, so yes, there is in theory some protection of rights.


> You can't leave out the crucial bit that it's all about border searches, for people who have recently crossed the border.

Sadly, this is entirely false. The Border Patrol routinely sets up suspicion-less searches on Interstate 5 in California, 60 miles from the US border with Mexico. The vast majority of those stopped and searched are U.S. citizens who have not crossed the border recently.


This is one of the most outrageously false and misleading posts I have encountered on here.

http://www.aopa.org/News-and-Video/All-News/2013/May/23/Fres...

Further, Iowa City is a long way from the border. 400 miles, perhaps.


Because nobody's mentioned it yet, this has already been dealt with. There's a legal precedent:

Ameida-Sanchez v. US

    But the search of the petitioner's automobile by a roving patrol, on a
    California road that lies at all points at least 20 miles north of the
    Mexican border,[5] was of a wholly different sort. In the absence of
    probable cause or consent, that search violated the petitioner's
    Fourth Amendment right to be free of "unreasonable searches and
    seizures."


"There are probably around 100 people in the entire country that shouldn't fly" <- this is the problem

if there are people who are guilty of something, they should be prosecuted and jailed. There are procedures for that. There is no "actually you did not do anything, but you're high risk for flying" approach in any law-respecting country. Either you're guilty or you're not.


They are also ignoring the side effects. What happens in any place where incompetence/corruption run rampant?

People find ways around.

The more people they add to the no-fly list for no reason, the more people will be willing to travel with fake documents. Or create business around the block (those people can probably fly airwave). Soon, there will be so much work arounds that the one or two terrorist per century that would have been deterred by that measure will just have plenty of options to bypass it as well.


1) Smear some chemical trace on a competitor's clothing or luggage, and/or submit an "anonymous tip".

2) Profit!

Seriously, though -- think about it. Secret system -- who knows how it's being gamed.


Can a person still fly charter if they are on the no-fly list?


As a person coming from a former Soviet republic - it reminds me of times 30 years ago, where the usual conversation with any official would look like this :

"no"

"why?"

"because the government says so"

No trial, no hearing, someone somewhere in secret made the decision and you had nothing to say in that matter. Or if you tried, you would be charged with interfering with government business, or "national security" and jailed for a random amount of time.

Really that different to what the US government is doing right now?


There are some pretty large differences but it is similar enough that more and more people are making the comparison in conversation. Folks who have read up on the Mccarthy hearings on anti-american activities will see a similar pattern of public backlash developing. s/Communism/Terrorism/g right? It becomes easier and easier to recruit people to vote against the excesses and then these people get booted out of government. Can't happen fast enough for me


The difference here is that there's no witch-hunt of high-profile, popular people to cause that backlash. Yet.


Yeah but at least in the USSR you could bribe your way out of this type of situation. Here it's even worse because the people at the bottom (checking counter people) wont take bribes and maybe even can't because the computer will stop them from entering certain info.


Giving a bribe might make a specific situation easier for you, but having a system where bribes are tolerated is cancerous. Few things have such power to destroy a nation.


One could argue that the nation was already long gone by the time that happened. Corruption is just accelerating the inevitable.


Brokenness at a high level can be fixed. Brokenness as a result of rampant corruption at all levels cannot.

You can restore civil liberties by enacting or repealing laws. You can't do it when no effective executive mechanism exists (i.e., all your bureaucrats, police, and other officials are on the dole).

Widespread corruption, IMO, is far more dangerous in the long term than what we're seeing right now in the US.


Yes. The people can demand that the government change policies. But if the people themselves are corrupt - the teacher won't teach and the doctor won't treat unless they're bribed - there's nobody left to fix things.


Obviously it's not different in principle, but in practice there are comparatively few people on the no-fly list, and the no-fly list is a comparatively unique mechanism. US citizens aren't typically prohibited from travelling, or corresponding with internationals, or publishing journals and notes, etc...

Yes, this is bad. Yes it should be fixed. But let's check the "ZOMG WE'RE IN A COMMIE GULAG!" hyperbole at the door. The less seriously we take this the more reason the government has to pick the "sane compromise" position which involves no-fly lists and universal-but-mostly-invisible surveillance.


The problem is such hyperbole is the only thing standing in the way of a system going that far. There are a great many normalized restrictions now which were ridiculed as commie gulag fodder not long ago, restrictions which not long ago would have been met with rebellion.

Billions of people have lived in "commie gulags". Most of them could still live their lives, and normalized any limitations they lived under. Stay within those "reasonable" restrictions, and you'd be OK; suggest breaking down those restrictions, and you'd be subject to the wrath of other citizens ridiculing your "hyperbole".

The "sane compromise" is standing by core principles. We learned to institute such principles as foundational law precisely because "sane compromises" and "mitigating circumstances" went very, very bad; if we deviate from them again, we will again learn - the very hard way - why those principles were enshrined in the first place. If the government decides you should be prohibited from doing X, a warrant must be approved by a judge, the restriction presented you in no uncertain terms, your accusers available for questioning, a court available for redress of grievances, and means for acquittal possible involving a jury of fellow citizens - not some secret list you can't even see to confirm whether your name is in fact on it.


I don't understand how inaccurately comparing living with a no-fly list to life in the USSR has anything to do with "standing by core principles". If anything it rather sounds like the opposite.

Stand by your principles. Don't spin the argument.


Core principles: evidence against me must be obtained under warrant, presented in court with my notification, subject to challenge, evaluated by a jury of common citizens, and the verdict subject to appeal. This is absolute front-and-center core principles of our government.

A secret list limiting travel by common means, with no more visibility than a bureaucrat's perfunctory "you're on the no-fly list, go away", with no way to confirm or challenge it, is absolutely a hallmark of life in the USSR.

It's not spinning the argument. It's the point of the argument.


A secret list limiting travel by common means, with no more visibility than a bureaucrat's perfunctory "you're on the no-fly list, go away", with no way to confirm or challenge it

Completely untrue, the ACLU has gotten several people off the no fly list, used FOIA requests to gain access to it, etc.


> US citizens aren't typically prohibited from travelling

Anyone on the no-fly list is effectively banned from travelling, just because the US are such a large country and the alternatives are plainly too exhausting.

Again: most constitutions guarantee freedom of movement. The reason it is written there is because the framers had experience with travelling restrictions and how they were used against political opponents. This last lesson seems to have been forgotten.


Exactly. The no fly list is one step away from becoming like China's Hukou System [0], which was eerily similar to parole restrictions on movement, but without due process (trial and conviction of a crime).

I can't even begin to imagine the burden of being an American living in Alaska or Hawaii and being on the no fly list.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukou_system [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_movement#China


I don't think anyone's saying we're in a commie gulag, but the comparison is still valid. The vectors for abuse of government power are growing and our resources are shrinking. The problem is still bearable, but we're headed in the wrong direction nonetheless.


I've found that people generally have a problem with certain types of comparisons.

If I say Bush/Obama is similar to Hitler in ways X and Y people stop listening and get mad, even if the comparison is dead accurate.

I think it is dangerous to dismiss those types of comparisons.


Godwin's Law, rather than a criticism of childish comparisons to Hitler ("What do you mean I can't go to the dance with Timmy? You're literally Hitler!") has mutated into an entire philosophy about the irrelevance of history.

Under this philosophy no comparisons can be made to history because invariably one of the two situations is more extreme than the other (inviting cheap intellectually bankrupt "Do you REALLY think that Foo is as bad as Bar?!?" comments that exclude the possibility that a metaphor may not be implying exact equivalence, merely parallels. Think about it, if I call a friend "Benedict Arnold" for abandoning me at a bar, am I actually accusing him of treason? No, of course not.) or circumstances were different ("Yeah, but those were Bolivians. WE are Alabamans. These are not comparable.")

Godwin's Law, despite its good intentions, has become a monster.


This line of thinking predates Godwin's Law, as a misunderstanding of comparisons in general. If there is any difference between the things being compared, even if it is not relevant to the aspects in the comparison, people of this philosophy will declare the whole matter to be "apples and oranges." Of course, this makes the entire practice of comparing things pointless, because under that thinking, things can only be compared to themselves.

On the other hand, I think people have an anti-Godwin reaction where they assume this is happening even when the comparison really is bad. To me, the value of Godwin's Law is to remind us that comparisons to Nazi Germany usually carry more emotional weight than actual insight, and when we encounter them, we need to ask ourselves whether the aspect of Nazi Germany being called out was integral to its evil or just incidental. A lot of so-called comparisons are just thinly disguised slander of the form, "Our government officials are drinking a lot of water these days. Do you know who else drank water? Hitler!"


> To me, the value of Godwin's Law is to remind us that comparisons to Nazi Germany usually carry more emotional weight than actual insight, and when we encounter them, we need to ask ourselves whether the aspect of Nazi Germany being called out was integral to its evil or just incidental

While it is important to keep this in mind, one must also always keep in mind that many valid comparisons to emotionally charged events will be made. Nearly everything in recent memory that is worth making comparisons to will have emotional baggage. Forcing people to tread lightly around issues that could have an emotional impact has a chilling effect on discussion, particularly when there is no similar weighting against comparisons to events with positive emotions.

Compare someone to MLK or Churchhill and few eyebrows will be raised; compare someone to the relatively mild Khrushchev and you will have half a dozen objections within seconds.

It is almost as if the meme of anti-bullying made the jump from schoolchildren to world leaders.


Note that the original Law wasn't even a criticism of anything, simply an observation that comparisons with Hitler became inevitable if a discussion went on long enough.


True, though I think it is fair to say that it was formulated as a criticism.


Such comparisons are rhetorical devices to substitute emotional appeals for rational argument; its a good thing that people tend to dismiss them.

Make the case for what the problem is with what Bush or Obama is doing, fine; after you've made the case use an example of an act of Nazi Germany that is genuinely similar in the relevant respects to make the point that the problem isn't merely theoretical, sure. But directly compare Bush/Obama to Hitler ... well, unless your goal is to provide an emotional boost to people who have already bought into the substance of your complaint, you shouldn't do that, and its quite right that people start tuning you out when you do that, especially when you open with it.


I have a hard time accepting any such argument could be "dead accurate". To make such a comparison would most likely require exaggerating specific similarities while downplaying significant differences. In the end, it's either a bad comparison or blatantly dishonest manipulation, and people will respond as they see fit.

In the end, manipulation will just polarize, as the targets of manipulation accept the party line or reject it, which then adds distrust to all information coming from that source.

And here we come to politics...


I don't think it's "dangerous" to dismiss facile comparisons thrown out instead of explaining why policy X and Y is actually bad. I think it's dangerous to make them

If your argument is that Obama's endgame is subjugating all political critics in preparation for the extermination of Muslims and invasion of Canada, then please actually articulate it (but yeah, you can probably expect people to stop listening and get mad). If that isn't your argument, why try and insinuate it?


Yes, this is bad. Yes it should be fixed. But let's check the "ZOMG WE'RE IN A COMMIE GULAG!" hyperbole at the door.

No let's not. We absolutely need to be reminded of the frogs that got turned into frog soup in the next pot over.


There's a big difference between examining the past for critical similarities to current events and exaggerating the current situation to make those connections closer than they are.

The former is important and useful, the latter is counter productive as the people that realize you are exaggerating then have a reason to discount everything you say without examining it to closely, as you've already shown yourself willing to manipulate to get your way.


That is certainly a lot of words up there without actually addressing the point at hand. Should we or shouldn't we compare the surveillance society in US with the situation in other authoritarian societies. (hint, yes.)


If you read Evgenia Ginzburg's writings, she was convinced -as were many many others- that even in her case the Gulag was for the greater good.

Just calling it a "commie gulag" does not minimize the fact that for many people they were "for the betterment of the country and its protection."

So: yes, one needs to take the worst to memory in order to prevent the bad from happenning. History is filled with good-willing governants.


Something about a frog and boiling water seems relevant somehow.


Only brainless frogs get boiled…


If the only difference, by your own admission, is how many such awful things there are, then why shouldn't we start comparing it to places like the USSR?


Obviously it's not different in principle, but in practice there are comparatively few people on the no-fly list

Yeah but if it's YOU, it's 100% of people as far as you're concerned. No one cares that you're a 4 year old, the computer says no boarding and it is so.


This is so un-American I can hardly believe that anyone in the USA would do it. Where's the due process? Where's the confrontation of the accuser? Where's the ability to redress a wrong?

This is so wrong on so many levels of Americanism. It's just Soviet, that's what it is.


The word un-American does not apply to a nation of cowards.


But... but... their gunna take are guns!!!

No. They won't. That's because not a single shot will be fired in retaliation to government intrusion and control. Not a single thing will be done about it.


Can you support that? Isn't it more probable that furious marketing of government positions that show futility in any action against it, is causing people not to react?


It's not even Soviet. It's worse. At least in the Soviet Union, one could travel freely without shakedowns that come at the drop of a hat.


Huh? In the Soviet Union one had to be registered as residing in a particular city. You could be stopped and asked for your papers, and if you were in a different city from the one you were down as living in there would certainly be questions.


There are checkpoints well within the USA which demand your papers, question your travel claims, and will detain you if anything seems amiss. They are spreading, and are not mere impromptu roadblocks but full-blown permanent "toll booth" structures.


Do you have any examples?



I had seen that video, I remember it now.

How ridiculous that the onus is on the citizen, not the officer, to make sure the citizen is not subject to unreasonable search (meaning: The officers will try and see if they are "allowed").


Airports.


A perfect example, which has become so normalized that it has lost all meaning as an example to most people.


I traveled in the Soviet Union in the 80's. Never once did I get subjected to the type of treatment that I get from the TSA, and I'm not on any DNF list.

Also, don't confuse having to register to aid in central planning with ease of travel. As an American, I traveled all over HHA and rarely had to show my papers. So, no, there certainly weren't questions...not like you alluded to.


>As an American, I traveled all over HHA and rarely had to show my papers. So, no, there certainly weren't questions...not like you alluded to.

Erm, yeah, American visitors were treated differently from native subjects. No shit.


"having to register to aid in central planning"

Wow. I'm pretty sure that aiding central planning wasn't the goal of resident registration.


Questions, perhaps. Not: "You are not allowed to be here, we don't care if your grandmother is dying; we don't care if you are attending your sister's wedding."

This is what is happening in the US with the no-fly list.


Yes, exactly that, as in arm-behind-your-back marched to the train station under guard. If they didn't like your look, anyway.


That didn't end with the Soviet Union. As of 2010, at least, that was still the case in Ukraine.


China also has laws about residency permits that they use to send rural migrants back home if they feel cities are getting too crowded


You pretty much described the US/Mexico border. And a thousands miles not in the border as well.


The US is a lost cause for anyone on the bad side of the government for any particular reason, crimes committed or not.

What really gets me though is that people are truly shocked that the piece of paper held up as some illusion of rights is, like everything else, simply not worth the paper it is printed on.

This is a document that has been used to justify slavery, prohibition, woman as property, Jim Crow laws, the "sanctity" of marriage etc. If history shows us anything it is that regardless of whatever is written down, the laws of the land will be made by the popular opinion of those that have power, and how they interpret things. The USA is no different than Rome, feudal Europe or France under Napoleon, despite the best intentions of its founders.


Slavery was the issue that almost destroyed the Union before it formed and nearly destroyed the Union again in 1860. But it seems we worked that one out.

Prohibition was instituted through the proper constitutional channel of the amendment process -- and repealed the same way. You may view it as the extreme opposite of the gay marriage issue today: a sweeping prevailing mindset that turned out to be a really bad idea in the long run.

As for women, Jim Crow we worked those out too. I can't respond to your '"sanctity" of marriage' comment, because all I'm getting is vague left-wing ire.

Those rights on that piece of paper have saved us from much government tyranny. Indeed, without the Bill of Rights, we would have lost many of them long ago. The founders were rightfully wary of government in this regard. Why is the 9th Amendment there at all? Does the government treat us as serfs or as sovereigns?

The Constitution is not perfect: it did not foresee the level of political activism present on the Supreme Court throughout the years. The Court has been amending the Constitution for far too long without proper oversight. We should not be able to predict the votes of the Justices, since most of us are not constitutional scholars. Yet we can...

The USA is different than most countries throughout history, but it has lost its way. The latest NSA / IRS news could be seen as simply the last in a long train of 'repeated injuries and usurpations' to and of our Liberty.


Those rights on that piece of paper have saved us from much government tyranny.

Really? Have you lived outside of the USA at all? Because I fail to see how anyone who has can make this statement. Life is no better or worse. The constitution does absolutely nothing.

Indeed, without the Bill of Rights, we would have lost many of them long ago. The founders were rightfully wary of government in this regard

This says more about American culture than it does anything else. Of course Canada survived without a constitution for most of it's existence, the UK still doesn't have one, and Australia doesn't have a Bill of Rights. In fact, most countries in the world don't have a constitution as America knows it to be. They seem to be doing just fine.

The USA is different than most countries throughout history,

No, actually, it isn't. The principles of the USA were in place in Athens and Rome thousands of years ago, the Magna Carta and the Republic of France more recently. Stop believing your own mythology.


> the UK still doesn't have one

The UK does not have a codified constitution. There still exists a set of laws and conventions that make up the UK constitution.


Every country with some form of election has something analagous to a constitution, because that's what a constitution is: a description of how government is formed, performed, and powers entailed. Many countries without elections also have something similar. This being said, without a document specifically called 'the constitution', the phrase "that's against the constitution" doesn't get a lot of play.

Australia doesn't need it to be in the constitution that slavery is against the law. It's been illegal here since before the civil war (throughout the British Empire in the 1830s). We did have some slavery - 'blackbirding' - and it was illegal without having to be in a constitution.

There is absolutely nothing magical about a constitution, it's just that generally making changes to that particular piece of law is defined as being more difficult than other bits of law, given that it also describes how the whole thing works. In the US, if you can get your law attached to the constitution, it's harder to repeal since you need a greater majority to do so. That's all. There's nothing that makes rights more special because they're 'in the constitution'.


Ergo it doesn't have the same thing the US does.


The only thing it's lacking is a snappy one-page document.


... that can be referred to in front of a judge and supersedes everything else.


How many thousands of countries have there been throughout history, though? You pointing to four really just proves the point.


Tell you what, when you point to at least 4 countries that are significantly different than the US that do not have defined constitutions, I'll concede to your argument.

Do you really think that something magical happened in 1775 for the history of humanity, or do you think perhaps it was just another example of the (rather established) idea of republicanism?

Food for thought: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republicanism


Just because the US wasn't the first doesn't mean it's not "different than most countries throughout history" unless most countries have been like the US with well defined constitutions. Bear in mind, "most countries" doesn't only include "most Western countries" or "most modern countries". Even that Wikipedia article only lists a handful throughout history.


If this is the case it should be rather straightforward for you to provide an answer to the question I posed in the previous comment, which you have yet to do.


I'll freely admit I'm no expert; I wasn't arguing that I am. I was merely pointing out the fact that four is not a statistically relevant sample size when the population is potentially in the thousands. If you're an expert in the area, I'd like to hear your answer to your question, or a more relevant sample size.

What I'm pointing out is that "most" has a definition, and less than 1% doesn't meet that critera.


What annoys me most is that while Brazilians and Turkish people are willing to start revolutions over seemingly unimportant things, Americans aren't willing to even protest (in the streets, like real protests are done) these things which seem much worse.


Brazilians actually are protesting important things. It just so happens that the straw that broke the camel's back was a bus fare increase of R$0.20.

The problem in the US is that our politicians have learned exactly how to abuse the system in a way that attracts the least ire from the general populace.

People in the US are likely to start protesting and getting angry over things like income taxes and fuel tarifs. That would get the ball rolling and then they would escalate their protests to things that matter.


I'm curious what purpose you see for protests in a representative democracy? It is not intended that our government make law to suit small groups of very vocal people, but rather that the will of the people be expressed, through equal representation, by elected members of government.

Obviously our system does not quite work as intended, but I'm not sure I see how protesting in the street could be effective, or if it was effective how that could be a feature rather than a bug?


Protests serve the same purpose as newspapers, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, phone calls, letters, etc: they're for communication.

You might not be able to afford that billboard on the street corner, but you can afford to stand there with signs and still attract attention. Protesting is mass communication for time instead of communication for money.

Personal example: Nearly every time I've seen a group of picketing workers outside an office building has been the first I've heard anything of their employers' practices. Even if I might care as a customer, why would I know about it?


> Protests serve the same purpose as newspapers, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, phone calls, letters, etc: they're for communication.

Interesting point. In that respect, isn't the media coverage and outcry on the internet accomplishing the same thing?

> Personal example: Nearly every time I've seen a group of picketing workers outside an office building has been the first I've heard anything of their employers' practices. Even if I might care as a customer, why would I know about it?

I hadn't considered this case, and you're right that it can serve a purpose locally.

Instead of an example like that, when I hear protest I tend to think first of political gathering, e.g. the Occupy protests, which appeared to be more an example of special interests trying to spur legislative action than a method of communication.


Wall St. protests (mostly small compared to the others you mentioned) did happen..

People do express their dissatisfaction, though it seems to be dwindling with more acceptance of whatever is being thrusted upon them..

Just wondering how committed are the sports fanatics in US/Latin America/India or movie fanatics in India and then comparing the (missing) outrage when liberties are at stake.


not unimportant, you probably need to see it in context.


Jim Crow, anti-miscegenation laws and hopefully anti-gay marriage laws etc.. could not have been ended without the 14th amendment and the Bill of Rights. 14th amendment is what overrode state-level majoritarianism (in states that had a white majority) and state terrorism/white minority rule (in states like South Carolina which did not).

The constitution and judicial review are not perfect, but they're far better than than naked and unchecked power of government(s).

"Women as property" did not occur in the United States. Denying suffrage rights to women as well as difficult of divorce were unjust, but us wasn't a particularly bad offender in that respect: many civilized countries gave women the vote after US did; many US states gave women the right to vote long before the right was extended nation-wide.

> The USA is no different than Rome, feudal Europe or France under Napoleon, despite the best intentions of its founders.

Well, I'd think there are some subtle differences, don't you think?

If you're going to compare US to any other country, compare it to UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. You'll find 1) the human rights records of all of these countries are on average similar 2) they're still far better than most other places, including other western countries.

I do think that a written constitution is better than de-facto basic law and custom: e.g., freedom of expression has been particularly strong in US due to the first amendment.

Which is why warantless surveillance is such a big deal: even amongst liberal democracies US is probably not the worst offender here, but (to use your parallel to Rome) this may be the proverbial Rubicon -- plain disregard for the text of the US constitution for "reasons of state" or "greatest good for the greatest number."

I will argue this: the "rights revolution" (namely extension of constitution to restrict federal and state governments) happened contrary to the worst _literal_ intention of the founders. The fact that we were able to preserve the "meta" spirit of the founding movement without codifying the repressive prescriptive mores of the 18th century is a huge testament to the constitution.


many US states gave women the right to vote long before the right was extended nation-wide

Well, 'some', not 'many'. And they kept repealing it, too. New Jersey had it for 17 years (if you owned enough property... very unusual for women of the time), Wyoming for 18, and Utah women were given the vote, voted the wrong way, and then had it taken from them. That's not empowerment, that's being a political football.


I hate to make such a prediction, but this case is factually analogous to the ACLU's case against the targeted killings of US citizens without due process and ACLU's demand the standards of the kill list be disclosed. If a citizen can have his life taken without due process, it seems consistent a citizen's Constitutional Right to travel can be taken without due process. For those that do not know:

"On August 30, 2010, the [ACLU] filed a "targeted killing" lawsuit, naming President Barack Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as defendants. They sought an injunction preventing the targeted killing of [a US citizen], and also sought to require the government to disclose the standards under which U.S. citizens may be "targeted for death". Judge John D. Bates dismissed the lawsuit in an 83-page ruling, holding that the claims were judicially unreviewable under the political question doctrine inasmuch as he was questioning a decision that the U.S. Constitution committed to the political branches."

Coincidentally, or likely not coincidentally Judge John D. Bates, is also the presiding Judge of the FISA Court as shown in the Rules of Procedure for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (See: http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/rules/FISC2010.pdf)

I do not agree, but at least the US government has an argument that by disclosing publicly known or suspected terrorists, it may jeopardize our national security interests. How the hell can that be logically extended to the idea that disclosing the criteria to get on the "kill list" or "no fly list" jeopardizes our national security interests?


Just a reminder, the deadline for comments on the TSA's body scanners is Monday. http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=TSA-2013-0004 has the info.


Soon though(thinking of PRISM), they'll be able to say you landed yourself on a No-Fly list because of a joke you cracked in an email you sent to your friend ten years ago that they only just mined now. (And a joke that their algo/analyst didn't understand)

And then they still won't let you appeal it. I wasn't aware though that No-Fly extended to boats, that makes it criminal. The only way to get off the continent then is to go to Canada or Mexico (or another SA country) and hop on a non-US associated airline. That is criminal.


"Back in September 2003, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) released a piece of model legislation it called the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. Like so many bills drafted by the free-market think tank, AETA was handed over, ready made, to legislators with the idea that it could be introduced in statehouses across the country with minimal modification. Under the measure, it would become a felony (if damages exceed $500) to enter "an animal or research facility to take pictures by photograph, video camera, or other means," and, in a flush of Patriot Act-era overreaching, those convicted of making such recordings would also be placed on a permanent "terrorist registry."

Frustrated by unauthorized documentaries of slaughterhouse abuses, the agriculture industry hired corporate lobbyists to hire Congressmen to insert laws that would ban PETA activists from using the US air transportation system.

These have been implemented in a number of states recently, although I'm not sure if any of them included the watchlist provision in the final draft.

* http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/ag-gag-laws-m...


Would drones be considered a loop hole here?


It's interesting to sit back and realize that the libertarians were right all along. On security theater and the bailout economy.


But being right about the problems isn't automatically the same as being right about the solutions...


Being right about the problems is the first step. I would argue providing a bad solution for a problem you know exists is better than providing a good solution for a problem that doesn't exist.


> I would argue providing a bad solution for a problem you know exists is better than providing a good solution for a problem that doesn't exist.

I would argue that details matter here and there is no valid generalization here. Neither of these are good things, but which is worse will depend on the details, and specifically how you define "good solution" and "bad solution".


And I would disagree.

Doing the wrong thing for the right reason seems in general to be worse, at least in terms of outcome, than doing the right thing for the wrong reason.

Can you give any examples of where you think this isn't the case?


My point was more along the lines of it is wasting time. If you do something bad for the right reason and then later find out it is bad then at least you know that solution was the issue and you can try a different solution next time.

If you do something right for the wrong reason then you have absolutely nothing to learn from and have made no progress at all at finding the correct solution for the problem at hand.


But you could well have done a huge amount of damage before you realise it's the wrong solution. History is full of examples of identifying a problem and putting an entirely inappropriate, and damaging, "solutions"

- the Russian monarchy is bad, let's put a "Communist" dictatorship in place - 1930's German farms can't support its people, let's invade Eastern Europe - modern Britain can't afford to pay for all of the hospitals/schools it needs right now, let's pay the private sector to build them for us, keep paying for them for the next 20 years and then find out that we own none of it - terrorists sometimes communicate on the internet, let's bug everyone's conversations

etc, etc.


Headache? Amputate! It will certainly stop the headache.


Problem: Hamburger buns aren't noticeable enough. Solution: A cheeseburger with a lightbulb inside.

Problem: Some humans are currently suffering. Solution: Destroy the universe.


It's time for another good idea, bad idea.


But sometimes it is.


Hence the word "automatically".


Criticism of the current state of affairs did not uniquely come from libertarians. Plenty of conservatives and liberals were quite concerned about security theater.


But they have no principled justification to refute it. So they're not helping the situation. They don't have any intellectual firepower.

(The libertarian are also not perfect on these grounds, but perhaps somewhat better.)


"You guys should actually follow that Constitution you swore to uphold" is a perfectly valid justification coming from a non-libertarian.


No, and that is exactly my point. You can't invoke the Constitution on your pet issues, but ignore it on other issues, which is what liberals and conservatives have been doing for a long time [1]. I mean, you can, but it's not intellectually convincing. And that's the very definition of a non-principled approach.

]1] At least, that's how I see it; I don't want to try to defend that claim in detail right now. Anyway, I'm not sure it's right to go only back to the Constitution and not further back, to more basic points about liberty. Liberals and conservatives do not support individual freedom, so they have no fundamental ideas to point to; it's just "I want this on this issue, but that on that issue."


Libertarianism is not synonymous with "follows the Constitution", and neither liberalism nor conservatism necessarily implies going against the Constitution.

Obviously, you seem to see things differently, but you are wrong, and having such a narrow view of other people will destroy your ability to understand them or have a productive conversation with them.


> , and neither liberalism nor conservatism necessarily implies going against the Constitution.

I'm not sure I agree with you, but I acknowledge that it's a complex issue and not one I'm interested in trying to hash out on HN. (Which I already stated in my prior comment.)

> Obviously, you seem to see things differently, but you are wrong, and having such a narrow view of other people will destroy your ability to understand them or have a productive conversation with them.

I think that's a really unjustified thing for you to say. Having different opinions about the Constitution does not "destroy my ability to understand [others] or have a productive conversation with them." No offense, but that's a really ridiculous thing to claim.


You were dismissive and insulting, saying that I and the vast majority of others have no principles. I think it was completely justified, because you demonstrated what I was claiming right in the message I was replying to.


> You were dismissive and insulting, saying that I and the vast majority of others have no principles.

I didn't say you have no principles, I said you didn't have a principled defense of the Constitution (or something like that).

So, does you just assume everyone who disagrees with you on politics is automatically insulting? People constantly argue about Constitutional issues and that's perfectly acceptable political talk. If you find that insulting, you're going to have a problem.

> you demonstrated what I was claiming right in the message I was replying to.

I'm honestly completely baffled. I don't know what you're talking about, and I don't know why you think I was "dismissive."


No, I don't just assume everyone who disagrees with me on politics is automatically insulting. I assume that people who insult me are automatically insulting.

I realize you don't know what I'm talking about. You're so out of touch that you can't even see how brash and irritating you're being here.

Don't accuse me of ignoring the Constitution sometimes and leaning on it other times when you don't even know what my positions are. Especially don't accuse me of that, then say you don't feel like defending the position. Don't accuse me of having "no fundamental ideas to point to" when you don't even know what my positions are.

If you don't understand what's wrong with stating "Liberals and conservatives do not support individual freedom, so they have no fundamental ideas to point to", then you're a lost cause. You don't understand others, you don't want to, and because of that, you're going to have zero success in arguing for your ideas.

Do you actually want to convince other people of the merits of your views? If so, you need to change your tactics, big-time. If not, well, the internet has plenty of room for argumentative jerks.


I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. I was just chatting.

You chose to take my position on liberals and conservatives, which disagrees with yours, very, very personally, rather than just saying, "He disagrees with me on politics," which would have been a more appropriate response.

And you've said all kinds of things that clearly are abusive to me... I'm brash, I'm irritating, I'm unable to have a conversation with others...

If you took my disagreement with you over politics as personally insulting, how do you think I'm supposed to take your actual personal insults?

> Don't accuse me of ignoring the Constitution sometimes and leaning on it other times when you don't even know what my positions are.

I am accusing liberals and conservatives of that. So what? That is not personally insulting, rude, or anything else. No reason to get upset.

I don't want to continue this conversation.


"I am accusing liberals and conservatives of that. So what? That is not personally insulting, rude, or anything else."

Because I couldn't possibly be one of those? Because my friends and family couldn't possibly be liberals and conservatives?

95% of the country fits into the "liberals and conservatives" slot. How can you not consider that to be personally insulting?


> How can you not consider that to be personally insulting?

Because I don't expect people to be insulted when I express disagreement with them about politics.

Being able to disagree about politics is absolutely crucial for a functioning democracy.


But a principled approach that relies completely on the Constitution is not very intellectually satisfying either. Libertarians or anyone else that relies completely on constitutionality has to accept the vast majority of the actions of government, since the Constitution grants the government the authority to determine the constitutionality of its own laws and actions. If the Supreme Court says that the Second Amendment doesn't apply to assault weapons, then that is constitutional, at least until the legislature changes the laws, at which point the Supreme Court can again interpret it to mean something else, ad infinitum (or until tricks like judicial stripping get used). They have to accept everything that is or ever was constitutional, like slavery, prohibition, searches and seizures when there is a warrant issued for any reason, direct election of senators, etc. Many "strict constitutionalists" avoid this by appealing to the intent of the forefathers, but then your entire "principled approach" is based on highly subjective interpretations, usually of extra-constitutional writings by various forefathers.


To a libertarian, the Constitution is not a refuge since they're pretty much required to consider it an overreach.


Please, as a progressive which are my pet issues?

I think you're aggregating people in a way that's dishonest.


> I think you're aggregating people in a way that's dishonest.

That's a ridiculous claim. Do you think that everyone who disagrees with you about something is automatically dishonest?

> Please, as a progressive which are my pet issues?

I don't know, but if you're a "progressive," you by definition want to coerce me (and believe me, that's not going to help me any.. I want to live my life under my own judgment).


What do you mean? Non-libertarians had no justification to refute those things?


Much of that revolves around the issue of whether rights are innate to being human, or are a construction of society.


Hmmm. But how does either stance invalidate or even weaken my "intellectual firepower"?


Well, neither of those stances can be traced back to reality, so neither is correct, so by definition, you have no "intellectual firepower" if you use either one. :)


http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_Protect

At least the Canadian one allows you to protest. As a result only about a thousand people on the list.


They can't even get on a boat to cross the Atlantic.

Does anybody know if other countries reference the U.S. no-fly list? Could one of these plaintiffs drive to Canada and travel abroad that way?


Canada has it's own version of the no fly list which includes data from the US no fly list.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Fly_List#No_fly_lists_in_oth...


I would imagine that travelling through South American countries would be a better option (ie., the only option).


Canada and the US share data. It may be possible but that probably depends on your personal situation. If you can get across the border you'd be okay I would guess, although you better hope the flight doesn't fly into (or over) US airspace.

For reference:

http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/ifim/airspace/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar


I sometimes wonder how the authoritarians that come up with these policies can look at themselves in the mirror and call themselves patriotic Americans.


They don't. They don't need to. This idea of a 'patriotic American' is propaganda. A complete and utter fabrication. It's a tool used to divide the American populace into opposing factions: those are patriotic, and those who are enemies of the stats.

It's a remarkably similar tactic to what the Nazi's used [1]. The Nazis attempted (and succeeded) in demonizing anyone who didn't agree with their ideals. That's basically what our politicians are doing: demonizing anyone who is 'not a patriot', 'against national security', 'disagrees with American Exceptionalism'.

Also, to those who will inevitably think 'Godwin's Law': thank you for derailing a legitimate comparison.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_propaganda#Themes


Is it possible for someone on the no fly list to join the lawsuit? I know two US citizens who are on the list.


don't know, but you could probably email the lawyers that wrot e this blog post and find out. contact information for various ACLU lawyers is listed in the filing [1] found on the blog post.

[1] http://www.aclu.org/national-security/latif-et-al-v-holder-e...


Is it possible for someone not on the no fly list to join the lawsuit? No US citizens can find out whether they are on the list short of being refused (being on the list does not guarantee refusal, and refusal does not guarantee being on the list).


I'm interested to see how the Tea Party deals with these issues. It could be a huge opportunity for them... As crazy as they are, if they take up the mantle of getting government out of peoples' personal lives, it could propel them into legitimacy. I'm this close to deciding that this is a vote-deciding issue compared to abortion, fiscal policy, or foreign affairs. Democrats, take note.


Can I coin a new political term: terrorismism. It is the enlargement of all state powers over its citizens in the name of fighting terrorists.


Interestingly, the enlargement of state powers over its citizens in the name of fighting (boogeyman of the day) is exactly what gave "the Terror", and its architects the original "Terrorists", their names.

So, "terrorismism" is just classical Terrorism.


Who were the classical terrorists?


The word "Terrorism" was coined based on the express philosophy behind the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France.


It appears people are agreeing this (and other) actions by the government are unacceptable.

So what are Americans doing about it?

We see people in Turkey, Brazil and many other parts of the world protesting against their government, while those in the US appear to be doing nothing.

What's it going to take?


This is outrageous. This is contagious. So futile.


I do love angry art. It can be just as pretty, if not sometimes prettier, than normal art.


"There are alternatives to flying".

Try driving to Puerto Rico or Hawaii.


Welcome to the United Prisons of Americal where the only thing preventing you from being forced to walk to your destination is the fact that using a car is still legal... for now.


It's good to see that in the 21st century there are at least some areas of daily life that haven't been pushed into a constitution free zone through technicalities.


Ever since they decided that they had the right to look at or touch my privates before I can get on a plane, I refuse to fly.


The use of the word "Blacklists" for "No-Fly Lists" in the headline is confusing.


What exactly do you think a No-Fly List is? The use of the word "blacklist" is entirely appropriate.


Before the headline changed, it was asking if the NSA could "blacklist" people without telling them what.

Given the context of no-fly lists, you can see what that's about. But without that context, you are wondering just what in the world it means. Are those people not allowed to be Americans?




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