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THE ARRIVAL OF SECRET LAW
November 18, 2004 3:45 AM   Subscribe

The arrival of secret law. Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know. This is not some dismal Eastern European allegory. It is part of a continuing transformation of American government that is leaving it less open, less accountable and less susceptible to rational deliberation as a vehicle for change.
posted by acrobat (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here is a Congressional Research Service pdf: Interstate Travel: Constitutional Challenges to the Identification Requirement and Other Transportation Security Regulations. (via a Hastings Law Library news blurb on this incident, found here.)
posted by taz at 4:17 AM on November 18, 2004


I dunno. I'm sympathetic in principle, but security personell are not required to walk around with written verification of, or even be acutely aware of, the legal origins of their authority. And even if there isn't a law requiring a pat-down, that doesn't mean there's a law against it.

Now, if you show me that there's a law requiring it, and that the CNN footage of the legislature passing that law has been erased, then we can talk about 'secret law.' There is certainly such a thing as 'bad law' and 'stupid law' and even 'illegal, but it's being done anyway,' but I'm not seeing the issue here. An airline is a company providing a service, and their judgement about who to let on a plane may be poor, but they have the right to exercise it.
posted by bingo at 4:27 AM on November 18, 2004


...and yes, it's a government agent actually doing the patting down, apparently, but it is possible that the TSA has 'advised' cooperation and that the Airline has 'invited the agency to assist.'
posted by bingo at 4:32 AM on November 18, 2004


if you show me that there's a law requiring it, and that the CNN footage of the legislature passing that law has been erased, then we can talk about 'secret law.'

no: when things get that bad, you won't be able to talk about it anymore.
Chenoweth is a militia-loving nut and, surprise, a hypocrite. but it's interesting that it's not just the lib'ruls who worry about erosion of personal liberties. clearly, with the exception of RNC dittoheads, the Gitmo slippery slope provokes a lot of bipartisan* nervousness.


*
The "poster girl for the militia movement."
Elected during the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, Chenoweth wasted little time before outraging many. She defended Samuel Sherwood, a key militia leader, after he was quoted saying, "Go up and look your legislators in the face, because one day you may be forced to blow it off." She proposed a bill to strip federal agents of their arrest powers without prior consent by local officials.
A bitter opponent of environmentalists, she said it was "the white, Anglo-Saxon male" who was truly endangered. She explained that the reason that Idaho has few minority residents is "the warm-climate community just hasn't found the colder climate that attractive."
And she angrily attacked President Clinton during the Monica Lewinksy scandal, saying, "Personal conduct does count."
Then came a revelation: Chenoweth had herself carried on an affair with a married man for six years. It was a relationship, she conceded, that she "came to regret" — but she insisted that it was different from Clinton's affair, as it had predated her election.

posted by matteo at 4:54 AM on November 18, 2004


Scary stuff. I don't know anything about Chenoweth, but in any case 'secret laws' don't seem to make a lot of sense. How is one meant to know the difference between a 'secret law' that really exists and one which a person in authority is just making up?

Or is that the whole point?
posted by different at 5:52 AM on November 18, 2004


Americans, your country needs you.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:53 AM on November 18, 2004


I agree with bingo - if they wanted to, each airline could hire private security goons to pat you down, and deny you entry to the plane if you failed to comply. I'm sure somewhere in your contract with the airline you agree to "all security procedures" or something similar.

I don't know, would it make people feel better or worse if it was a private company patting you down?
posted by falconred at 5:55 AM on November 18, 2004


Or is that the whole point?
I think it is. We should just blindly trust (like a good american?), and never verify, apparently. This will be one of the most lasting dangerous legacies of this administration--they classify everything, even things that shouldn't be. Gonzales, our new Justice guy, is famous for it.
posted by amberglow at 5:58 AM on November 18, 2004


Is there a site somewhere that lists the differences in privacy rights, etc between the US and our European friends?

For example, I have heard that in some nations (Germany specifically) you have to register where you live with a government agency.

What are the requirements to show ID in Europe to travel via air? (every time I have gotten on a plane in Europe, I have had to show my passport, but as a non-European, I kind of expected that.)
posted by stupidcomputernickname at 6:02 AM on November 18, 2004


Here in the Netherlands you have to register your address with the city you live in. It's mainly done, I believe, as it means that you can prove your entitlement to specific residence rights (things like housing) as a long-term resident.

In my native Australia you put yourself on the electoral roll when you turn 18, and keep the roll updated with your address thereafter.

I'm no expert on inter-country travel within Europe, but as a rule you have to show ID and proof that you're entitled to go to the country to which you wish to travel (eg visa or residence permit if needed.) EU members need only a valid identity card, but for nationals of non-EU countries you need to show a passport.
posted by different at 6:14 AM on November 18, 2004


Frankly I find this to be really scary stuff. It does have important historical precedent, though, that I think we should all think about before condemning it.

For example, there's the Star Chamber. I think we can all agree that that body was actually very good for Britain in the long run. Also, there's the Spanish Inquisition (which no on expects). I think, despite historical "revision" that this body really was good, over all, for humanity in the end.

I feel confident that we can expect similar good to come from the veil currently being drawn by our current administration which, I think you'll all have to agree, has proven itself very trustworthy up to this point.
posted by Yellowbeard at 6:51 AM on November 18, 2004


How is one meant to know the difference between a 'secret law' that really exists and one which a person in authority is just making up?

Shh...it's a secret
posted by Hands of Manos at 7:19 AM on November 18, 2004


Yellowbeard - My sarcasm detector might be on the blink today, but are you really defending the Star Chamber and the Spanish Inquisition?

What
The
Fuck?
posted by bshort at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2004


I don't know, would it make people feel better or worse if it was a private company patting you down?

If that were the case, you could "protest with your dollar" and choose the airline that has the least intrusive search procedures, or join their frequent flier express check-in "trusted Americans" club or some such. Also, in that case they (the airlines) would be paying the full cost for the searches, and you can bet that they would end up being streamlined and economized to the point that they were no longer quite so intense.
posted by milovoo at 7:31 AM on November 18, 2004


"It does have important historical precedent....there's the Spanish Inquisition (which no on expects)" - Did somebody call ? :

OUR WEAPONS ARE -

"The Judas Chair: This was a large pyramid-shaped "seat." Accused heretics were placed on top of it, with the point inserted into their anuses or genitalia, then very, very slowly lowered onto the point with ropes. The effect was to gradually stretch out the opening of choice in an extremely painful manner.
* The Head Vice: Pretty straightforward concept. They put your head into a specially fitted vice, and tighten it until your teeth are crushed, your bones crack and eventually your eyes pop out of their sockets.
* The Pear: A large bulbous gadget is inserted in the orifice of choice, whether mouth, anus or vagina. A lever on the device then causes it to slowly expand whilst inserted. Eventually points emerge from the tips. (Apparently, internal bleeding doesn't count as "breaking the skin.")
* The Wheel: Heretics are strapped to a big ol' wheel, and their bones are clubbed into shards. Not very creative, but quite effective."
posted by troutfishing at 7:57 AM on November 18, 2004


This goes "ignorance of the law is no excuse" one better.
posted by alumshubby at 7:59 AM on November 18, 2004


milovoo - I am guessing that you chose at random that phrase you used there; "trusted Americans" club. As a non-American I have to say that it sounds frankly ridiculous and somewhat disturbing.

This is not a reflection on yourself at all but I can just picture a "trusted Americans" club and to be frank, the thought that someone in the USA thinks people of other nationalities are somehow "less trustworthy" makes my skin crawl. It is much like the USA #1 thing that annoys people around the world to an enormous degree.

There is a thin line between patriotism and rampant nationalism. Perhaps it's the globalist in me but I get shivers everytime I hear somebody espouse their nation's supremacy over anybody elses. Apologies for the derail.
posted by longbaugh at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2004


Actually, for many years the voluminous IRS code was restricted from the public. It took a hard-fought lawsuit to force them to divulge their arcane regulations--violation of which were criminal acts. It turned out that there were many examples of paradoxical regulations, so that literally anyone could be prosecuted for violating them.
posted by kablam at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2004


Hmmmm... , usually I would answer this question in a pretty straightforward manner and just say "yes, that was sarcasm," or "no, that wasn't sarcasm. I really do think that both the star chamber and spanish inquisition were, in the end, good things." However, I just got a MEFI account (finally, after lurking and waiting for AGES) and I am not sure I want to just give everything away this quickly.

You can probably figure out a lot about me by checking my profile. Otherwise, I think my political positions should become quite clear over the next few weeks, though I am pretty given to deadpan humor, so be careful. ;)

posted by Yellowbeard at 8:19 AM on November 18, 2004


Psst, bshort. You can tell it is sarcasm by the last sentence: I feel confident that we can expect similar good to come from the veil currently being drawn by our current administration which, I think you'll all have to agree, has proven itself very trustworthy up to this point

This whole thing is just an example of The Great Pendulum form of government. One side gets into power because the other side is perceived as having gone too far in righting some wrongs (hint: think Democratic programs like affirmative action, welfare and unions.) The new party in power goes so far overboard in righting these wrongs that their own members start jumping ship and soon the pendulum swings back the other way.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:20 AM on November 18, 2004


Hopefully.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2004


Little knots are slowly being tightened around our freedom to choose, to move, to speak, etc. This particular incident may not be horrible per se, but if you check relevant postings just in MeFi, you will see a pattern emerging. I feel sorry for Americans. They are too innocent to realize how their country is slowly but surely slipping toward fascism. I know most of you are in denial about this and I'm prepared for some snotty remarks. Mark my words, though. Insallah, we will be here next year to sum it all up. Cheers!
(I posted this in another relevant thread but it got screwed up. So I post it again here)
posted by acrobat at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2004


SLoG, do you really think that Unions are "democratic programs?" I think of them more as private institutions. I guess the democrats do tend to favor them, but can they really be called "programs?"

Actually, in this case, I think that Dubya is actually going to get reigned in, not by the democrats, who seem to be more and more impotent with each passing day, but by moderate, money wielding republicans, who will eventually tire of Dubya's pandering to the religious right. Then again, I just talked to my fiance's rich uncle this weekend (he's an old school fiscal republican and pretty damn non-religious) and he acts like what the religious right is doing is no big deal. He doesn't really think they are asking for much and that they should be indulged.
posted by Yellowbeard at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2004


Actually, acrobat, what you describe is exactly what I fear the most. I wonder, at what point did liberals in Germany start getting worried? The thing is, a government does not get to Fascism by some giant, obvious step, but by a whole bunch of things that look semi-reasonable in and of themselves. At what point does open revolt occur? Is it always after the point of no return? Does the left (or right, for that matter) sit around on its hands thinking "well, it will swing back eventually," only to wake up one day and find that not only has the country gone to the dogs, but it is too late to stop it and everyone is screwed?

Then again, we survived McCarthysim. That, from what I understand, was pretty bad. I just worry. A lot of Americans are supporting these policies which continually restrict our freedoms. When is the time to say "They are coming for the Jews, and we need to speak up right now?"
posted by Yellowbeard at 8:41 AM on November 18, 2004


McCarthyism was nothing compared to all these things. The Patriot Act alone goes miles and miles beyond McCarthy.
posted by amberglow at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2004


It's a lot easier to take freedoms away than to give them back. Not that it doesn't happen, it just doesn't happen without some significant work.
posted by tommasz at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2004


An airline is a company providing a service, and their judgement about who to let on a plane may be poor, but they have the right to exercise it.

that loud popping was the sound of your head going up your ass. a company has neither "rights" nor "judgement". if the directors of a company wish to provide service in order to generate revenue, they provide it without discrimination, and with utmost politeness. the captain will stop by my seat and provide proof of his education and competence, racial heritage and political affilliation. the maintenance staff will review the entire maintenance schedule for the aircraft with me in great detail, and provided the flight attendants are all properly groomed and holding no repugnant personal beleifs, i may grant permission for them to transport my physical being via thier airplane. assuming they are up to date with the repayments on all the government subsidies and bankruptcy bailouts i've funded over the decades.
posted by quonsar at 9:34 AM on November 18, 2004


I wonder, at what point did liberals in Germany start getting worried? The thing is, a government does not get to Fascism by some giant, obvious step, but by a whole bunch of things that look semi-reasonable in and of themselves. At what point does open revolt occur?

I think that Weimar Germany is a really bad example for this comparison. Germany had no practical experience with democracy, and basically went from one authoritarian form of government to another, while suffering from its recent defeat and a complete economic collapse.

McCarthyism was nothing compared to all these things. The Patriot Act alone goes miles and miles beyond McCarthy.

Really? How many people have been blacklisted under the Patriot Act? The Patriot Act certainly doesn't hold a candle to the Alien & Sedition Acts, either.

I'm certainly no supporter of the Patriot Act or the Bush administration, but the level of hyperbole and shrillness here isn't helping the cause. A little perspective is a good thing.

the captain will stop by my seat and provide proof of his education and competence, racial heritage and political affilliation. the maintenance staff will review the entire maintenance schedule for the aircraft with me in great detail, and provided the flight attendants are all properly groomed and holding no repugnant personal beleifs, i may grant permission for them to transport my physical being via thier airplane.

I hope that works out for you. You must never have taken a cab.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2004


There's a throwaway line in a Vernor Vinge novel, about a society that was "destroyed shortly thereafter by ubiquitous law enforcement."

Sigh.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2004


I hope that works out for you. You must never have taken a cab.

simply pointing out how ludicrous it is with the shoe on the other foot. yet the status quo isn't considered ludicrous at all. gee, i wonder why that is?
posted by quonsar at 3:12 PM on November 18, 2004


... I can just picture a "trusted Americans" club and to be frank, the thought that someone in the USA thinks people of other nationalities are somehow "less trustworthy" makes my skin crawl. It is much like the USA #1 thing that annoys people around the world to an enormous degree.

Same here, and for the same reason, that's why I picked that phrase. I'll bet you 20$ that there is something like that with a non-ironic name* just as awful in the next few years. I suggest the Feel of America® cavity search campaign.

*not counting the US-Visit program which encourages tourism by demonstrating just how much we trust fur'ners.
posted by milovoo at 3:16 PM on November 18, 2004


simply pointing out how ludicrous it is with the shoe on the other foot. yet the status quo isn't considered ludicrous at all. gee, i wonder why that is?

As usual, I have no fucking idea what point of view you're even attempting to advocate.
posted by bingo at 4:14 PM on November 18, 2004


As usual, I have no fucking idea what point of view you're even attempting to advocate.

The quonsar isn't considered ludicrous at all, as long as you ignore the fact that it is the *government* demanding so much of passengers, and not the airline...
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:28 PM on November 18, 2004


What shoe is on what foot, and what status quo is he blathering about? What? What? What?
posted by bingo at 5:16 PM on November 18, 2004


Q: What does TSA stand for?











First Post Pause








A: Thousands Standing Around

ba-dum-pah


I really could have done better.

Thanks Matt, I can now change my start page away from the MeFi new members page and to the MeFi login page.....finally.
posted by HyperBlue at 6:05 PM on November 18, 2004


Why Transportation Security Administration guards don't have to tell you what they won't tell you.
posted by homunculus at 7:33 PM on November 18, 2004


Speaking for worried Americans, we are not blind, nor deaf, we do see the baby steps toward a Fascist state, however I'm not horribly worried, yet. My benchmark? Kent State.

I was a child, and very much in angst about the whole generation gap, silent majority stuff. I remember vividly the "America: Love It Or Leave It" bumper stickers. I remember the frightening intensity of hatred that country boys had for "them long-haired hippies" to the point that the ending of Easy Rider didn't seem implausible. But mostly what haunts me is Kent State. The National Guard shooting and killing college students. The idea even today is horrifying.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:30 PM on November 18, 2004


Well, at least people being patted down may be able to feel more secure in the knowledge that those carrying out the frisking are legit, under a pilot scheme (excuse the pun) announced yesterday for up to 200,000 transport workers to carry biometric ID cards.

(thankfully, my tinfoil hat cannot be penetrated by thin edges of wedges)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on November 18, 2004


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