Homeland Security Makes Traveling Harder . . . Again

Nothing like some misguided Homeland Security policy to make you feel all warm and cozy. This time, we’ve got two policies, one that will impact foreign visitors and the other that could theoretically impact anyone.

First, let’s start with the rule that will affect non-US citizens. There are 27 countries that participate in the visa waiver program which allows people to visit the US without a visa. When they travel now, they can just grab their passports, hop on the plane, and fill out immigration forms enroute. That will change by January 12 when anyone traveling on a visa waiver will have to register electronically at least three days prior to traveling. There will, fortunately, be exemptions for people who book at the last minute, but what about people who forget? Will they be turned away?

I suppose the good news is that you only have to register once every two years, but that means the US will be keeping more info about you electronically. The more changes we make, the more we discourage people from visiting. Is it really not enough to have paperwork filled out on the flight? I mean, it’s a great option to offer the ability to register online beforehand for those who prefer, but making it mandatory just adds one more hurdle for foreign visitors to deal with as they plan their trips.

And now, let’s turn to the other news. Beginning June 21, you will be required to show a photo ID when you travel. Wait, didn’t you have to do that before? Nope, you didn’t. If you didn’t want to use a photo ID, you could still travel but you had to go through more rigorous screening. As you can imagine, this didn’t happen that often, but it did happen.

The rule says that exceptions will be made for people who have lost their ID, but really, who is to make the determination that it’s specifically been lost and you’re not just trying to avoid showing ID? The officer? Yikes. Here’s what the TSA has to say on the subject. I have to disagree with them. Why do we need to know exactly who is traveling? Anyone who willing travels without an ID is going to face such increased scrutiny that they would be idiots to try and do something sinister that way. Anyone really trying to cause trouble would just get a fake ID of some sort in order to blend it.

As fare as I’m concerned, as long as ID-less passengers don’t have anything dangerous on them, they should be allowed to fly. What do you think?

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26 Comments on "Homeland Security Makes Traveling Harder . . . Again"

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newkidtown
Member
Both are idiotic and will backfire. On one hand it’ll decrease a few tourists from Europe but worse I’d expect Europe to start doing the same with for US passport holders. The ID is part of the failed belief that establishing who you claim to be will somehow help determine what you intend to do. The false positive (unnecessary hassle) rate is too high and there’ll inevitably be false negatives (failing to capture the real hijacker) because there are terrorists with past history. The initiative is the wrong answer to “why check 70 year old grandmas” or “why do you… Read more »
ML Harris
Guest
I think you should check the frequent flier. I think the CLEAR pass is a dumb idea from a security standpoint (you are “CLEAR.” I am terrorist. I kill you, and take your CLEAR card, hack it and walk through security with my box cutter, my .45 magnum or whatever else I care to walk past security). And I think that, despite the high death toll from 9/11, the hassle and loss of commerce to fliers, both domestic and international is a bigger loss (small inconvenience compared to being dead, but large when you compare the number of affected versus… Read more »
Zach
Guest
I wonder if there there is a non-electronic registration option for those without internet access. Obviously, the vast majority of people who would be traveling to the U.S. from abroad probably have internet access, but it is conceivable that somebody from more rural areas of underdeveloped countries–like the Gambia or Haiti, for example–might have used a travel agent to book his or her flights over the phone and may not have easy access to a computer or connection with which to register prior to departure (not to mention that, even if they do have access to a communal internet connection,… Read more »
newkidtown
Member

@Zach, the new rules are for 30+ visa-waiver countries which don’t include the likes of Gambia or Haiti but Japan, Australia and most of Western Europe. Those who need a visa pay at least 100$ and go for an interview at an embassy which is part of a lengthy process…

Zach
Guest

Thanks for the clarification. I read the post hastily and misinterpreted it to mean that this was being implemented for all visitors to the US, including those from the visa-waiver countries.

jim sack
Member
Zach and Andy, The waiver does not include East Europe, yet, I believe. Beyond that, however, I wonder what good all of these humiliating rules have done. The Bushies will said no hijackings have occurred since implementation. They are right, of course, but they can not prove their efforts have thwarted a hijacker. What the rest of us can prove is that air travel has become hard, more onerous and harder again. Shoes off, frisking little old ladies, small bottles only, long lines, finger nail clippers adjudged lethal, and all the rest. I wonder if Chertoff and his buddies have… Read more »
jim sack
Member
As I mentioned, folk in Romania, for example, have to prove they will return before they are granted a visa. That means they have to earn enough points by showing they are leaving money behind in a bank account, have property, are leaving loved one behind and have a job. The idea is to keep young Romanian from coming here to steal jobs from you and me. Consequently, if an old guy wants to come here to see a cousin married he has to take the train to the capital (perhaps a two day run), take a number and hope… Read more »
Pepper
Guest

This is the first wave of “homeland security”, initiated under the Patriot Act, to “protect us”. I dunno, are we fast moving to what we have seen in horror in movies where the government knows every step we take, ever move we make, they will be watching you. Can’t you see that you belong to me? I tossed a brick at a website called bricktoss.com to my senator on this subject that I am opposing this.

Anon Coward
Guest
I hope everyone here will join me in the Constant ID Losing Club. No offense to those who have legitimate senior moments but I’m going to have a nonviolently resistant and convenient forgetful moment every time I head to the airport. What’s next, they’ll have to keep a database of people who forget ID, to use in browbeating you the 2nd time you make the “mistake”? All this TSA nonsense. I’m burning FF miles and not flying unless I have to. Maybe when the airlines wise up and tell the government to cut this crap out, then we’ll get somewhere.… Read more »
Artie
Guest
CF – I agree with you on the pre-registration for visa waiver countries. Seems foolish, inefficient, and not very welcoming. So, no argument with you or the other posters there. But people, get a grip on showing the ID thing. Nobody seems to question being carded at a bar or to get into a nightclub. And for me personally, I am very grateful when a cashier asks to see my ID when I use my credit card to protect me from identity theft/fraud. I will admit that I am quite opposed to the Patriot Act itself and find many of… Read more »
Artie
Guest
First, I gotta admit that I feel like I’m debating with a super-cool international celebrity!! And since I live in CA, please know that if I ever come across you (unlikely since I don’t fly out of LGB much), I’m asking for your autograph :) lol Ya, I should have made clearer that I agree with your last point: I also can’t imagine that a terrorist would be dumb enough to forget ID since that would require extensive secondary screening. And like I said, I am all for allowing somebody who forgot their ID to be required to undergo the… Read more »
Zach
Guest
I support these initiatives, as well, but Artie put it more eloquently than I would have. To be honest, though, I am not opposed to the pre-registration for the visa-exempt countries, either, especially after the Richard Reid incident. Then again, I never had much complaint with the need to remove my shoes in the security line, and I actually support Israeli-style profiling (full disclosure: I have traveled to Israel several times and have family there). I realize that I might be in the minority among the readership of this blog, but I am also someone who has literally been placed… Read more »
Zach
Guest
CF, I’m with you on the ID/no ID thing, actually. I’m sure there is some administrative reason for the policy, but it seems absurd that somebody with ill intentions would think that simply showing up without an ID would somehow aid them in carrying out their mission. It would most certainly make it more difficult. As for the pre-registration, I agree that we should welcome tourists and their money, and we should make it as easy as possible for them to get here. However, I understand the basic rationale behind placing one more step between the passenger and the plane.… Read more »
gobluetwo
Guest
Artie wrote: “They are not tracking where I’m going – they are only making sure that somebody with evil intentions doesn’t somehow steal my boarding pass and try to gain access to a “secured” area – granted, we all know that this is NOT 100% secure.” That’s the whole problem with ID checking. Say someone with evil intentions does, in fact, steal your BP (or, heaven forbid, print out a FAKE). He can get in line without an ID and be screened. TSA, of course, will know that he actually did lose his ID because the “extensive” search did not… Read more »
Claire Walter
Guest

You have a really good point about the crucial issue, security-wise, being whether a passenger is trying to bring something dangerous aboard an airplane (nail clippers, contact lens wetting solution, a toddler’s sippy cup being among the examples in TSA’s short history). The TSA’s latest HUH? decision is dressing up its screeners in “police-blue” shirts and official badges — presumbaly to give them an air of authority. See http://travel-babel.blogspot.com/2008/06/tsa-screeners-get-new-uniforms-and.html for more.

daren_siddall
Member
As a brit who has been flying to the US two or three times a year for the past 20 or so years I have been waiting for a scheme where all the information I provide benefits me in some way. There seems to be nothing for the frequent visitor in the Homeland Security’s policies. The vast majority of the time I visit family who are resident in the US and yet I always get asked the same questions in the same surly manner (btw I think Homeland Security do a great job of putting off tourists). I am happy… Read more »
newkidtown
Member

@Daren, the registration won’t do any good to you. They already know who you are but ask you nonetheless. Registering will allow to double check, make meetings and place calls if your name, birthday and passport number etc. show up in some other list. Chances are this is not the case with you. The questions they ask you are the same I presume: why are you coming, for how long etc. They all to determine that you have no immigration intent but will return soon.

Artie
Guest
Gobluetwo made an interesting point that got me thinking that there is some validity to the point that checking IDs is superfluous. His/her point about not having ID checked at the courthouse reminded me that when I served on a jury (was even Jury foreman – though it wasn’t as cool as on TV…but I digress), I didn’t have to show my ID to get past security. I did have to wear a generic “Juror #1” badge with the courtroom number on it, but I didn’t have to show my own ID. And when I reflected more on my own… Read more »
daren_siddall
Member
I agree that they are always looking out inconsistency of information when looking for those that are looking to stay on in the US and look for work illegally, but the good thing about data is that it helps establish behaviour patterns and establish likelihood of being an illegal worker. If you have been coming and going for many years and always returned within two weeks the likelihood is that you will continue to do so. If you are a first time visitor, young and from a less affluent country (i.e not UK) clearly the risk is higher and closer… Read more »
Mark
Guest
They should call the act creating the TSA, the full employment for mentally challenged law. Gee what would it be like to have a full time job where I all do is make people take off their shoes and confiscate their toothpaste? Its been seven years since 9/11 occurred. Its time to give up some of the paranoia that exists. Until Bush can prove that his actions have thwarted specific hijackings, I can’t accept the blind assertion that this heightened security policy is why we haven’t had any. This business about the visas is just stupid. These countries will all… Read more »
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