DHS/TSA blink: Real ID is a bust

As I wrote in this post on January 7, 2016, Edward Hasbrouck is a consistently reliable source of information on all things security — and faux security. His excellent website, PapersPlease, is a breath of fresh air in the hothouse atmosphere of the travel blabbosphere. So it’s no surprise that he has been predicting from the beginning that the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to impose yet more stupid regulations would fizzle. He said DHS would blink, and it has.

I’m talking about so-called Real ID and DHS’s insistence that after such-and-such a date (constantly changing) the TSA would no longer accept as ID driver’s licenses from a list of states that hadn’t acquiesced to DHS demands. In other words, DHS was claiming that you would be prevented from flying domestically if you held a driver’s license from a supposed rogue state (Alaska, California, Maine, Texas, etc.). I’ll let Ed tell the story:

Accurate public understanding of what’s going on is not helped by the fact that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in official statements by its highest officials, on its official website have been telling out-and-out lies about what the law does and doesn’t require.

Many well-meaning and reputable but overly trusting journalists have allowed themselves to be used as conveyor belts for this DHS propaganda. The result has been a flood of authoritative-seeming news reports, many of them flatly wrong.

The essential facts are as follows:

In order to try to intimidate state governments into allowing their state driver licenses and ID databases to be integrated into a distributed national ID database (the REAL ID Act is about the database, not the ID cards), the DHS is threatening states. DHS intimates that at some future date set at the discretion of the DHS (not earlier than 2018, but that date has already been postponed by a decade since I first wrote about it, and could be postponed again) the TSA and its minions will start preventing people from flying if they show up at airports with ID from states that the DHS, in its discretion, deems insufficiently “compliant” with the federal REAL ID Act.

Hasbrouck goes on to say:

The DHS and the TSA have no legal authority to carry out this threat.

I repeat: DHS and TSA have no legal authority to carry out this threat. (Then again, I suppose one could argue, correctly, that both do lots of stuff for which they have no legal authority.)

Furthermore, Hasbrouck repeats what he — and I, and many others — have been saying for years: flying is a right, not just a privilege. Flying is a right:

The right to travel by air is guaranteed by explicit Federal law (“the public right of freedom of transit through the navigable airspace”, 49 US Code § 40101), by the Bill of Rights (“the right of the people… peaceably to assemble”, U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1), and by an international human rights treaty to which the USA is a party (“Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State [i.a. a country that is a party to the ICCPR] shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement”, ICCPR, Article 12, Paragraph 3).

There’s other information in the full column, and I urge you to go over to read it. Hasbrouck ends with this paragraph:

Right now, U.S. domestic travelers don’t need to do anything about their ID cards. However, they do need to tell Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act, and ask state officials to prepare to defend your rights and those of other residents of your state if the DHS and/or TSA try to interfere with Americans’ right to travel.

Right to travel. Our right. Get it?

(Thanks to Charlie Leocha and Edward Hasbrouck)

Cross-posted at ABombazine.

  • RB

    The problem with red light cameras is that some jurisdictions have shortened the yellow light period. The impact is the light switching to red more quickly. Red light cameras are nothing more than means to generate revenue for cities.

  • Daisiemae

    Speaking of surveillance–I just read that the Myrtle Beach police are seeking to install license plate readers to cover 42 lanes of traffic. They will record all vehicles entering and leaving the city. This will cost the tax payers $462,000. They claim they need to do this to “help them battle crime.”

    Myrtle Beach was the last place we felt we could go…no planes, no TSA, no harassment, no sexual assault. We always have a wonderful time at the beach there, and we love going to Carolina Opry.

    Don’t know that I’m very interested in going there again.

    I’m sure they are doing this all over, but now I know they are doing it in Myrtle Beach.

    My God! This means that people who live in Myrtle Beach are constantly being surveilled by their police department!

    • Susan Richart

      Apparently Myrtle Beach has a very high crime rate. How is collecting all this data going to help them fight crime? It isn’t.

      • Daisiemae

        Yet when I called MBPD to complain about people shooting off fireworks on the beach at 2:00 am, they acted like I was a real crackpot.

        Fireworks are legal in SC–one reason I would never live there–but there is a noise ordinance. They could care less.

        As long as they have your license plate, you can blow yourselves up and put other people’s eyes out and set hotel property on fire. The important thing is they have your license plate!

    • RB

      You are being surveilled more than you think. Street cams, traffic cams, license plate readers, and all manner of other opportunities to surveil you are not being overloked by government.

      Welcome to Free America!

      • Daisiemae

        Yeah, I already knew about it in general, but this is specific. And they specifically say that they want to record all vehicles entering and leaving the city.

        So it makes me want to stay away from their city…and spend my vacation dollars someplace a little more friendly.

        PS: Red light cameras have now been banned in NJ. Hurray! One small victory for the people.

        • Susan Richart

          However, I would like to see red light cameras used to catch distracted drivers, i.e., those using their cell phones. Distracted driving is now the biggest killer on NJ roads.

          • Daisiemae

            Totally agree about distracted driving. People using cell phones should face very stiff penalties.

            However, it’s been proven that the red light cameras were very faulty. Many people were being nailed who had not run a red light. One of many reasons was that the angle of the camera would not see the car if it moved out of frame before coming to a complete stop. In order to see if any traffic is coming, you have to move forward. But then the camera cannot see you.

            When the cameras were in operation, I always made sure to stop very far back then move forward to a position where I could see if traffic was coming and stop yet again. I was always afraid the camera would not see me stop.

            Moreover, statistics have proven that the red light cameras do not reduce fatal accidents. And red light cameras did nothing to address distracted drivers using cell phones.

            It really was just a cash cow for the local municipality. That was the only purpose it served.

          • Good points. In Baltimore, only the speed cameras were found to be faulty — terribly so — but so far not the red light cameras. Traffic lights at most of the intersections have been changed anyway, to be red in all directions, because so many assholes run red lights. It’s cut down on accidents a lot.

          • Daisiemae

            Red in all directions…good idea. Once the light turns green, I always look both directions just in case.

        • RB


          This story is over a year old but gives a sense to how we are being watched by government.

  • Francis Evans Clark

    It’s cristal clear that al-qaeda and ISIS do not pose a real threat to the very existence of the USA. They defied the American way of life, the American self-confidence and they won using the strength of their enemy. So it turns out the USA is waging war against the American Citizens. I do not know if Osama Bin Laden knew Sun-Tzu but he won the “war” using the Chinese philosophy. On top of that there is the absurd possibility to buy an assault rifle easier than take a domestic flight. God Bless America. May He enlighten the Washington bureaucrats.

    • I don’t know if he knew Sun-Tzu, but he certainly knew the US would overreact; that’s precisely what he wanted and precisely what he predicted:

      For al-Qaeda, forcing the United States to continually add layers of air security amounts to victory in its own right. “If your opponent covers his right cheek, slap him on his left,” its writers gloated in the organization’s magazine, Inspire. “The continuous attempts that followed 9-11 . . . have forced the West to spend billions of dollars to defend its airplanes.” The strategy, they wrote, is one of “a thousand cuts” to “bleed the enemy to death.”


  • Susan Richart

    What frightens me most about REAL ID is the use of Facial Recognition Technology which is a requirement of the REAL ID program.

    Our good friend, WillCAD, wrote of the issues with the abuse of FRT just this a.m. on FlyerTalk:


  • Jadeveon Clowney

    I’m glad you and Edward Hasbrouck are writing about this. I get tired of the cowardly posts and comments at other travel blogs. So many of them are ready to buckle under to whatever the TSA wants.

    • Charlie Leocha has also been a strong advocate.

      But take a look at the comments section over there. It didn’t take long for the TSA apologists to crawl out of the woodwork.

      • Susan Richart

        There’s only one negative comment to Hasbrouck’s article and one comment from someone who would like to see an opposite opinion on any “value” to READ ID. I can’t find any comments to Charlie’s most recent writing on READ ID, but maybe I’m not looking in the right place.

      • Jadeveon Clowney

        And now that column has also been posted at Chris Elliott’s blog. The attitude over there is usually in favor of the TSA, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the comments start coming in.