A few years ago a guy named John Gilmore (one of the original guys at Sun Microsystems and a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) was prevented from boarding a Southwest Airlines domestic flight a few years ago because he didn’t have a photo ID. He has no driver’s license and didn’t have his international passport with him.
But it gets better: he decided to sue John Ashcroft (yay!) in District Court in 2002. During the case, government lawyers said the U.S. Government does *not* require passengers to show identification, but that the airlines may challenge passengers and ask for ID in order to “[achieve] the government’s objective of preventing air piracy.”
According to the lawyers, there is a government directive to the *airlines* requiring them to ask for ID. But– ha!– it’s a security directive that is sealed and not available to the public. In other words, rules that airline passengers are required to follow are not actually available for the passengers to review. Hmm.
Gilmore’s argument in addition to the fact that he doesn’t have a photo ID except his passport– which isn’t required for domestic travel– is that requiring passengers to show ID doesn’t actually do anything for airline safety. Any halfwit terrorist will either have legitimate credentials, or will have a nicely forged set. Every one of the 9/11 hijackers did. Thus, requiring people to show them is a pointless exercise in “preventing air piracy”.
The case was eventually dismissed at the request of both Southwest Airlines and the U.S. Government. Now Gilmore is filing another court case, with the backing of several civil liberties groups, hoping to reopen the argument. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.
Also, as a great side note, about a year later Gilmore decided to fly British Airways to London (apparently he’s okay with showing his passport to fly internationally) and wore a little button on his lapel that said “suspected terrorist”. It was a joke, of course, because he was making a statement that the way the airlines and the TSA treat U.S. citizens, it is as if we are all suspected terrorists. He was asked to remove it, he refused, and the captain turned the plane around (it was taxiing) and forced him to leave the flight. He was refused a second flight as well. The story is great.
Ahh, the fun of living in Post-9/11 America…