Invisible Laws, Our Privacy and a Deep Rabbit Hole

Rabbit HoleI know that some of you have… issues… with my seemingly rebellious nature. But rebellion is quite a different thing than questioning more deeply into matters. Past questioning, is action on what you discover. And that action is the truer test of one’s mettle.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has an excellent article on John Gilmore, one of the first shaping people of Sun Microsystems, a large contributor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the cracker of the government’s DES encryption algorithm.

Recently he has stopped giving airport personnel his ID when boarding a plane. He believes there is no security benefit gained when having to show ID at the airport with “magnetometers at the gates, guards with security wands, fortified cockpit doors and sky marshals abounding”.

But the airlines require it. He asked why, and they say it’s the law. He asks to see the law, and they cannot produce it. He asks government agencies, and they say there is no such law. He files suit and digs further and it turns out there actually is such a law, but we are not allowed to see it.

“That’s the problem. How it sounds,” Gilmore said. He waved his hands like some Cassandra: “They have all these secret laws! The UFOs are coming!”

He was arrested for not showing his ID. Subsequently, the charges were dropped by the District Attorney. Most charges are dropped related to this law – including charges against baggage handlers who steal from people’s baggage. They are dropped because it would force a discussion of the secret law in open court.

The Transportation Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, created the regulation, and this regulation is classified as “Sensitive Security Information”.

When Congress passes a law, it should be shown to the public so they can not only know about it (or be arrested, where the prevailing idiot-ude is “ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law”) or even challenge the Constitutionality of the law in the courts.

So how do we challenge the Constitutionality of a law that we are not even allowed to examine? This is what a representative of the Transportation Safety Administration has to say:

“I have no idea,” Davis said. “If a passenger doesn’t wish to show ID prior to getting a boarding pass, that’s something they’re going to have to take up with the air carrier. And the air carrier is required to obtain government-issued identification.”

Gilmore believes this is yet another way the government is trying to slip in national ID requirements for its citizens – an easy way to track more and more information about us. And as an IT person, I can certainly understand the potential horrors that might result from errors or purposeful abuse.

A few days ago Anthony asked me why I hadn’t written anything about the growing movement toward national ID cards within the government. This movement started some time ago, and various tactics have been taken. The most recent of which, can be read about from the link Anthony provided on

In the meantime, Gilmore, a multimillionare, rides the bus.