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We're All Prisoners, Now: US Citizens to be Required ''Clearance'' to Leave USA
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 11:15:38 -0500
October 26, 2006
Forget no-fly lists. If Uncle Sam gets its way, beginning on Jan. 14,
2007, we'll all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us
permission to leave-or re-enter-the United States.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSA) has proposed that all
airlines, cruise lines-even fishing boats-be required to obtain
clearance for each passenger they propose taking into or out of the
It doesn't matter if you have a U.S. Passport - a "travel document"
that now, absent a court order to the contrary, gives you a virtually
unqualified right to enter or leave the United States, any time you
want. When the DHS system comes into effect next January, if the
agency says "no" to a clearance request, or doesn't answer the
request at all, you won't be permitted to enter-or leave-the United
Consider what might happen if you're a U.S. passport holder on
assignment in a country like Saudi Arabia. Your visa is about to
expire, so you board your flight back to the United States. But wait!
You can't get on, because you don't have permission from the HSA.
Saudi immigration officials are on hand to escort you to a squalid
detention center, where you and others who are now effectively
"stateless persons" are detained, potentially indefinitely, until
their immigration status is sorted out.
Why might the HSA deny you permission to leave-or enter-the United
States? No one knows, because the entire clearance procedure would be
an administrative determination made secretly, with no right of
appeal. Naturally, the decision would be made without a warrant,
without probable cause and without even any particular degree of
suspicion. Basically, if the HSA decides it doesn't like you, you're
a prisoner - either outside, or inside, the United States, whether or
not you hold a U.S. passport.
The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized there is a constitutional
right to travel internationally. Indeed, it has declared that the
right to travel is "a virtually unconditional personal right." The
United States has also signed treaties guaranteeing "freedom of
travel." So if these regulations do go into effect, you can expect a
lengthy court battle, both nationally and internationally.
Think this can't happen? Think again. It's ALREADY happening. Earlier
this year, HSA forbade airlines from transporting an 18-year-old a
native-born U.S. citizen, back to the United States. The prohibition
lasted nearly six months until it was finally lifted a few weeks ago.
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are two countries in recent history
that didn't allow their citizens to travel abroad without permission.
If these regulations go into effect, you can add the United States to
For more information on this proposed regulation, see http://
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- We're All Prisoners, Now: US Citizens to be Required ''Clearance'' to Leave USA David Farber (Nov 09)