Sour Grapes
Of course we're Fair and Balanced!

2004-11-18

Secret laws: we're not allowed to know what they say, but we still have to obey them



This is really disturbing. I quote Steven Aftergood from the 14 Nov edition of his Secrecy News:




Last month, Helen Chenoweth-Hage attempted to board a United Airlines flight from Boise to Reno when she was pulled aside by airline personnel for additional screening, including a pat-down search for weapons or unauthorized materials.



Chenoweth-Hage, an ultra-conservative former Congresswoman (R-ID), requested a copy of the regulation that authorizes such pat-downs.



"She said she wanted to see the regulation that required the additional procedure for secondary screening and she was told that she couldn't see it," local TSA security director Julian Gonzales told the Idaho Statesman (10/10/04).



"She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the regulation], and she was not allowed to fly," he said. "It's pretty simple."



Chenoweth-Hage wasn't seeking disclosure of the internal criteria used for screening passengers, only the legal authorization for passenger pat-downs. Why couldn't they at least let her see that? asked Statesman commentator Dan Popkey.



"Because we don't have to," Mr. Gonzales replied crisply.



"That is called 'sensitive security information.' She's not allowed to see it, nor is anyone else," he said.



Thus, in a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know.



This is not some dismal Eastern European allegory. It is part of a continuing transformation of American government that is leaving it less open, less accountable and less susceptible to rational deliberation as a vehicle for change.




Dave Farber also posted this to his IP list and got a response from Scott Mace concerning a secret directive issued by the TSA regarding train travel:




Another secret TSA directive which Amtrak implemented on November 1, 2004, requires Amtrak passengers to produce I.D. during random I.D. checks on board the train. I called TSA on Friday and was informed that the directive was secret. I asked for further elaboration on why TSA took this step, and a TSA press official said she would check and call me back.



To the best of my knowledge, and having consulted with some rail transportation buffs, such on-board I.D. checks don't exist anywhere else in the non-Communist world.




I don't want to live like this! Do you?



Blog home
Blog archives