After our recent discovery, while checking in for a flight, that the name “David Smith” is on the No-Fly List, I’ve been thinking a lot about the illusory nature of airline security. But not as much as tech legend John Gilmore. His hometown paper has a great profile of the SUN co-founder and EFF funder that also chronicles his efforts to read the law that requires US citizens to show government-issued ID to board a plane. The article is great:
The government has been so unyielding on disclosure that men with the name David Nelson suddenly found themselves ejected from flights. Somewhere in the system, the name came up on the newly created “No Fly” list. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., found himself in the same dilemma. When baggage screeners were caught pilfering, prosecutions were dropped because a trial would require a discussion of “Sensitive Security Information.”
When John Gilmore demanded proof that the airport ID rule met Constitutional muster, the government at first declined to acknowledge it even existed.
Gilmore’s famed eccentricity is put to awfully good service in this cause. He is asking questions that most of us can’t afford to (he’s worth millions) out of the sheer necessity of travel. We may not even have time to notice we’re submitting to ever-more-arbitrary “security” requirements. But he’s smart enough to notice and ornery enough to stick with what most would consider a Quixotic effort.
“I will show a passport to travel internationally. I’m not willing to show a passport to travel in my own country,” Gilmore said. “I used to laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it’s happened here and people don’t even seem to know about it.”