Obama’s DHS Imperial Overreach

Just wow

New rules require British Airways and other airlines flying to certain airports outside America to submit passengers’ personal data to US authorities. The information is checked against a “No Fly” list containing tens of thousands of names. Even if the flight plan steers well clear of US territory, travelers whom the Americans regard as suspicious will be denied boarding.

Now the US is demanding passengers’ full names, dates of birth and gender from airlines, at least 72 hour before departure from the UK to Canada. The initial requirement is for flights to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and the Nova Scotia capital, Halifax – 150 miles from the nearest US territory. A similar stipulation is expected soon for the main airports in western Canada, Vancouver and Calgary.

Any passenger who refuses to comply will be denied boarding. Those who do supply details may find their trip could be abruptly cancelled by the Department of Homeland Security, which says it will “ake boarding pass determinations up until the time a flight leaves the gate … If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No Fly list.” In other words, travellers cannot find out whether they will be accepted on board until they reach the airport.

Where is our America?  Where is liberty?  Why are we allowing this to happen in our names?  President Obama must reign in this out-of-control security apparatus.  We must see from him a plan to dismantle the DHS and return America to a pre-9/11 security posture.


725,000: Number of British visitors to Canada each year. Airports affected: Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax

300,000: Number of British visitors to Mexico each year. Airports affected: Mexico City and Cancun

160,000: Number of British visitors to Cuba each year. Airports affected: Havana, Varadero and Holguin


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33 thoughts on “Obama’s DHS Imperial Overreach

  1. I don’t know about this one. If I’m not mistaken, KLM has had a 72 hour requirement in place for some time. And if I remember correctly, the info. provided includes SSN. I mean, this doesn’t seem to me to be a departure from the procedures adopted for travel in continental Europe. This seems to me to be learning a positive lesson – looking at how challenges are handled elsewhere in the world…. I guess I just don’t see where liberty is infringed. It’s just procedure – what fool wouldn’t comply? And it’s so easy, you just do it online. If this does work in the same way it does at say, KLM/ Schipol, I just don’t see the problem. And if there is some way to coordinate efforts with a “no fly” list all the better. But that wouldn’t have anything to do with passenger procedure. I’ll be following this story more closely. Thanks for posting it.

    1. So wait… If you’re flying from London to Toronto, the US Government has a right to prevent you from flying??? From the UK to Canada???

      What happened to sovereignty? These travelers are not coming to the United States… They’re not even entering US airspace. The United States has no part to play in the transaction, yet we’re insisting that we can deny people the right to travel from one sovereign nation to another sovereign nation neither or which is The United States???

      That’s fucked up…

      1. Phil, this isn’t a matter of sovereignty. Canada, the UK and other sovereign nations are doing this of their own free will. See my post below.

        1. Under the threat of having their airlines’ access to US routes curtailed. Not exactly “free will.” There’s a word for that: blackmail.

          1. Is there any concrete evidence of this alleged threat?

            The article you cited claims that the US Department of Homeland Security is behind this, and conveniently forgetting that they have absolutely no authority outside the US. It looks like yet another ignorant, alarmist bunch of hooey.

            1. Agreed. Looks like orange booker hysteria – Is this not proof of government intruding on the private sector? It’s the orange bookers that are part of the Liberal Democrat wing? The free enterprisers? It’d be a heck of a lot easier to figure if the British political parties weren’t so darn confusing. I think the Independent does tend toward NeoLiberalism doesn’t it? Again, I’m not sure. But I’d take that into account when evaluating this particular claim. I’m not denouncing it as false, but I’m skeptical of it. Doesn’t look quite right to me.

              1. I don’t know anything about the website, and even if I did I’d parse it to see if it. This article just plain doesn’t pass muster as journalism. It’s a bag of claims, and mighty clumsy ones at that. “US Immigration”, then the sudden switch to DHS doesn’t look like informed writing to me.

                If I took the word of everyone who posts on the Internet, I’d be in very bad shape. Caveat emptor.

  2. Like I said, I’d have to see a more comprehensive explanation for this new rule. Seems to me it was a pretty incomplete description. There’s no clear mention of how the U.S. is coordinating with foreign authorities. I don’t see the liberty infringement in terms of what a passenger is required to do. Looks no different than KLM/Schipol to me. I don’t see how this threatens sovereignty if there is a coordination between governments.

    This article has presented the rule in inflammatory terms framing it from the worst case scenario. You’re not going to be on the no fly list if you’re an average traveller. Once you obtain your boarding pass, you’re off the no-fly list. That’s less than 5 minutes online. If this article were framed in cooperative terms instead of “The U.S. is demanding…” the reaction would probably be quite different. So, the Canadian, Mexican, and U.K. governments have no bearing on what’s going on here? I doubt it.

    I share your concern about sovereignty, but If the U.S. is engaged in a coordinated effort with other nations, then one can’t say that the DHS is unilaterally “demanding” anything or unilaterally preventing anyone from flying.

    Of course, the U.S. should have no right to prevent non U.S. citizens from traveling where they want to go outside of the U.S. That’s a frame no one could agree with, I just don’t see the evidence for that conclusion from this article. Too many pieces missing.

    I sure wish it was possible to return to a pre-911 security state. But, I doubt that will happen, and it’s probably not going to happen in continental Europe or the U.K. There have been many more security threats on European soil and over a longer period of time compared to the U.S. experience in 2001. Not such an easy challenge to meet.

    1. Great point!

      The free will choices of the various airlines flies in the face of the conspiracy theories about the US government forcing sovereign nations to comply. KLM’s rules are their own. They’re also nothing compared to other lines, like El Al. I’ve actually been in the cockpit of a KLM airliner as a passenger in Israeli airspace. Try doing that on an El Al flight!

    2. You’re not going to be on the no fly list if you’re an average traveller.

      The “if you’ve got nothing to hide so why do you object” defense? REALLY?

      Didn’t we get enough of this shit during the Bush years?

      Apparently not.

  3. This is clearly a below-the-belt cheap shot at our President that reflects badly only on those who propagate it. The misuse of words like “imperial” and “reign”, and pretending (yet again) that the Obama administration and not the Bush administration made the mess is a transparent but still shameful deceit.

    The US has collaborated with other English-speaking countries since the time Eisenhower was in olive drab. I don’t recall much dissent about that. In fact the general consensus has been national pride in the technologies (such as voice recognition) that were developed for ECHELON.

    The UK has been instrumental in helping the Bush administration lie to the American people, from the phony “yellowcake” story that was our excuse for Gulf War II, to the liquid bomb hoax. Is it really surprising that they continue to be a force of world-wide oppression?

    (Once more my attempts to offer links and footnotes to factual evidence have been rejected as being “spammy” and “not liked here”. All I can say is that I did the work and hold the proof.)

    1. Obama has been President for 3.4 years now, he owns this and all the other crap he’s carried forward from the Bush administration (including Gitmo).

      And I think you’re missing the point here. WE HAVE NO BUSINESS MEDIATING A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UK AND CANADA! This is not us working with European nations, this is us bullying air carriers to expand our security reach outside our borders. And what if we say we don’t want someone to come to Canada but the Canadians do? What then?

      Sovereignty? Never heard of it…

      It seems to me that the US blackmailed European air carriers that if they didn’t participate in this program, the would loose access to lucrative US routes. That, to me, is not “of their own free will.”

      1. Phil,
        I agree with you regarding Obama’s disappointing extension of Bush era policies. But I don’t think this is a case of extending Bush policy. I really think this is a departure from it. I’d say again I need a more comprehensive review of this policy, but if this “new procedure” is modeled on travel in continental Europe, then really, with all due respect, I think it is you who might be missing the point here. We are not mediating any relationship between the UK and Canada. Please take no offense, but that’s an erroneous conclusion if this is “new procedure” is an adoption of the Dutch model – and on the surface, it looks like it is.

        Bullying air carriers? Blackmailing them? This “new procedure” is what international airline carriers already have been doing all over the world for a long time. Now that it is being implemented from the UK to Canada makes sense. I think on this one we may have to agree to disagree. At least until a more comprehensive description of this policy can be found. I’m keeping my mind open, and I’m willing to concede to you if you are correct.

      2. Well Phil, I see that you have completely ignored everything I wrote. You’re entitled to your opinion, but not your faulty logic.

        My second hand car has an annoying squeak that always disappears when I take it in to be looked at. While it’s true that I own the squeaky car, it’s not my fault that it’s making that noise.

        The fact of the matter is that the US has all kinds of business, through treaties and other agreements with Canada, the UK and other nations. So we DO have business, as you call it. Whether it’s mediating or some other form of participation is immaterial.

        If this kind of intelligence sharing that has been going on forever bugs you so much, start writing your elected representatives.

  4. Two Things:
    MM brings up an excellent point about conflation of Obama and George W. It speaks to the UK perspective of the U.S. That perspective is by no means uniform, but ranges from gobsmacked that we’d ever elect George W. not once but twice, to legitimate concerns of overreach, to abject fear of regression into Cold War status where something like an Iron Lady/Gipper alliance could reoccur…. well, that doesn’t really cover it. That’s just a smattering, too complicated a topic to go into here. I do think it is safe to say that for many in the U.K. Obama’s election in 2008 was greeted with an overwhelming optimism and hope that the U.S. had come to its senses. I think what we see in this article is emblematic of a less tempered reaction to fear of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” – that is, Obama hasn’t really strayed too far from George W. in his leadership.
    Honestly, read this again:
    “Any passenger who refuses to comply will be denied boarding. Those who do supply details may find their trip could be abruptly cancelled by the Department of Homeland Security, which says it will “ake boarding pass determinations up until the time a flight leaves the gate … If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No Fly list.” In other words, travellers cannot find out whether they will be accepted on board until they reach the airport.”
    Refuses to comply? Refusing to confirm your flight? Come on. If you refused to confirm your flight, Homeland Security is not going to stop you at the gate and take you into custody. You’re just not getting on your flight. There’s nothing hidden here – when you buy your ticket, you know you have to confirm within 72 hours or you might not be able to board. It’s a prudent, non-intrusive response. And international airlines are well aware that extenuating circumstances occur for the average traveler – and they accommodate. This article implies that Homeland Security is at the gate like the gestapo, that’s inane and insane. What follows is standard operating procedure for travel on the continent; there is nothing overwhelmingly new about it. The only thing that appears to be “new” is that these procedures are being implemented at more “hub” airports – which makes sense. Having nothing more to go on than this article, it looks to me like Homeland Security plays no part in this process other than behind the scenes coordinating the no fly list. Passengers are not submitting their information to the Homeland Security, they’re submitting they’re information to the airlines as part of the flight confirmation process.
    Coordinating international travel is an incredibly complex endeavor without having to attend to the security threats posed post-911. This article is an irrational response to what I would consider a pretty a sound development in U.S. policy. Again, I’d say if Obama is taking cues from the Dutch, that’s a good sign.

    1. Again, the point eludes you.

      Why does the US DHS get to decide whether you’re entitled to fly between London and Toronto??? EVER!!!!

      I don’t normally use “slippery slope” arguments because they are slippery, but we do seem poised a the top of a slippery precipice with this one. When will it end? If the DHS can decide whether or not you can travel between two sovereign nations, neither of which is The United States, what’s to stop them from expanding these powers so now you can’t fly from Paris to Johannesburg? Moscow to Tokyo? Cairo to Mumbai?

      1. Perhaps you are right. I might be a blunt stick – and I’ll be the first to admit it. So let me try to sharpen your point, so that I understand it. I’m not being facetious, I really am trying to get it:

        Are you suggesting that sovereign nations coordinating their intelligence efforts for a no-fly list amounts to the DHS deciding “whether or not you can travel between two sovereign nations, neither of which is the United States”?

        Are you saying the very existence of a No Fly list is an infringement of liberty and sovereignty?

        1. As the linked article points out:

          Neil Taylor, a tour operator who pioneered tourism to Cuba, said: “Imagine if the Chinese were to ask for such data on all passengers to Taiwan, and similarly if the Saudis were to ask about flights to Israel – would the US government understand?

          “One also has to wonder how an American traveller in Europe would react if he were denied boarding on a flight from London to Rome because the German government had not received sufficient data from him.”

          1. I don’t know what to make of this. It looks like out of the ballpark, false-frame wackiness on the order of Michele Bachmann logic. But, again, I will reserve judgement until I have more info.

            1. I don’t think it’s “false frame” so much as it is “slippery slope.” And in that I agree with you, it’s not a strong argument. I guess, in the end, we need to know how “voluntary” the participation of the air carriers is.

    2. PJ, I’ll make a wild guess that you too have been through Europe before 9-11, and remember that they had domestic terrorism to deal with long before 9-11. As a teenager in the mid- ’70s it was an unnerving sight to see soldiers with sniper rifles atop the hangars.

      I’ll guess too that the Complainer in Chief here hasn’t been abroad. To take that tabloid pap seriously as an excuse to overreact as if it’s some horrible crime can only be attributed to xenophobia or dishonesty.

      1. Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe. And yes, I do remember travel pre-911. And I remember it right after. Even military patrols when traveling between U.S. and Canada. It is a critical route, but that’s another whole can of worms.

        “Complainer in Chief” isn’t a very nice thing to say. Phil’s concerns are legitimate. I simply question the accuracy of the information we’re working with. I don’t think it captures the matters at hand well at all. But as I keep saying, I will keep an open mind.

        1. PJ, I agree about the accuracy thing completely, which is precisely why I disapprove of going full-on Henny Penny with nothing but a singular, unjustified, uncorroborated web page for a basis.

          If any single person should know that posting something on the Internet doesn’t automatically make it true, it must be the blogger. It would be one thing if Phil had said I have no clue if this is true or not, but if it is…” But that’s not what he did.

          Posting articles to a website named “Blogging Blue” implies that the official postings will be different from the fire hose of GOP lies that we see not only in the media that only the 1% can afford to own, as well as countless right-wing blogs and other places.

          Call me crazy, but I don’t want to live under authoritarian despotic rule for the rest of my life. So when someone slams President Obama in the extreme, without any justification or excuse, I’m going to call them to task.

  5. Are you saying the very existence of a No Fly list is an infringement of liberty and sovereignty?

    No, I’m saying that the U.S. DHS imposing the U.S. NoFly list on other nations for travel that does not involve the United States infringes upon both liberty and sovereignty.

    1. I don’t think what’s happening with this “new procedure” is that the U.S. is imposing its own No Fly list on other nations. I’m not an expert or authority at all in these matters in any way, but I think a No Fly list is coordinated between a good many nations and involves a lot of criteria other than a passenger flight list. The very idea of a U.S. No Fly list kind of defeats the purpose of a No Fly list. To me, it seems a vast improvement over the random – “that guy looks like a subversive, hold him up at customs” method.

      1. I think a No Fly list is coordinated between a good many nations and involves a lot of criteria other than a passenger flight list.

        No, I don’t think so. I think there is some coordination, but does every nation agree to the same list of people? Highly doubtful. Would Israel and Syria agree? Greece and Turkey? Unlikely.

        The “No Fly” list defined in this context is the U.S. No Fly list. Not the UK list (for which I can find no evidence). Not the Canadian list. And certainly not the Cuban list (if there is one). As of today, there are about 21,000 people on the U.S. No Fly list. While many of those people are likely on other nation’s No Fly lists (if they exist), what do you suppose they do with ones that aren’t? Canada’s list only has about 2,000 people on it.

        America is entitled to keep these people out of America. We are not entitled to keep them out of Canada. And certainly not out of Cuba!

        Let’s not forget the details of the story. This is not UK security forces using our list, this the US demanding that the UK air carriers provide the data to the DHS.

        New rules require British Airways and other airlines flying to certain airports outside America to submit passengers’ personal data to US authorities.

        FWIW, the source of the story, The Independent, is regarded as a left leaning paper more or less in competition with The Guardian.

        1. RE: The Independent. I wouldn’t put it on par with the Guardian. On social issues it mostly leans left? But drifts toward NeoLiberal doesn’t it? Is it kind of tabloidy? I don’t read it often.

          I will concede that I really don’t have any insight on “sovereign no fly lists’ as you describe them here.

          But as to the claim the DHS is demanding that British Airways submit personal passenger data to U.S. authorities – this is what I keep saying. As I understand it, this is what European airlines already do. And if I understand it correctly, they’re not providing personal passenger information to a unilateral DHS. There’s no demanding of anything here. It’s merely expanding the procedure to critical hub airports in North America and Mexico.

          For example, If a British passenger going from the U.K. to Canada were detained because their name was “flagged,” it would not be a unilateral decision and it would not be an action unilaterally performed by the DHS. Truly, that’s nonsense. I understand what the article is saying. My sense is that it’s flat out wrong. Quite frankly, I’m surprised this procedure hasn’t been expanded to Canada and Mexico earlier. Either there’s something else going on here and the Independent hasn’t quite got the whole story or it is flat out wrong.

          Granted, one can fully appreciate the Europeans for being skeptical of U.S. unilateralism around the world. But this is nonsense. We should try to find another few sources for this story. I really haven’t enough knowledge on this matter. I want confirmation.

          Hey Phil, you’re a blogger – why don’t you contact the Independent and ask for confirmation? Tactfully bring up some of the concerns.

    1. Not the same thing.

      Secure Flight gives the United States unprecedented power over who can board planes that fly over U.S. airspace

      You could maybe make a case for that being in our national interest. But the article I cited was very clear.

      The information is checked against a “No Fly” list containing tens of thousands of names. Even if the flight plan steers well clear of US territory, travellers whom the Americans regard as suspicious will be denied boarding.

      1. I understand it is not the same thing. I don’t believe that this article is accurate. I’m not saying I have the answer, but I don’t believe this claim yet. Check out the other links. The claim isn’t debunked but getting closer to it. The Beyond the Border plan does include U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officers at the Canadian hub airports in question who do decide who flies and who does not fly, but as far as I could tell it was only U.S. to Canada. Not UK to Canada. But streamlining the exit-entry process which, yet again I say, only makes sense – and is a really cool thing. And the passenger list portion does mention, as I pointed out earlier, you’re not on the No Fly list if you get a boarding pass. And your info. is deleted after 7 days. Now if that holds true in the real workings of things is another matter. And you’d be right if that information wasn’t deleted but secretly compiled. And there’s your slippery slope. There is also a redress/grievance procedure if you think you’ve been unfairly detained. I didn’t look at that.

        specifically mentiion respecting sovereignty, the Const

  6. And this:

    Short of contacting Homeland Security to verify the claims in this article (which I just may do), my incomplete analysis is this:

    The article originally referenced might be based on an older article from 2010 which looks sketchy as well. These issues are probably brought to light now because of collaborative efforts recently announced by Harper and Obama.

    Actually, the whole Canada-US cooperative thing looks pretty groovy. Not satisfied enough to confirm or deny the claims in this article. Way fun trying to get to the bottom of it.

      1. That’s addressed in the exit-entry system. And it treats NA travel as a regionally cohesive unit. As I said, DHS isn’t demanding anything. Passenger info. is one part of a coordinated process between sovereign nations.

        Oops I have a typo up there. Don’t ask. What I was trying to communicate in that typo was that the Beyond the Border cooperative agreement does respect the Constitutions of both the U.S. and Canada and all the privacy laws of each.

        This Beyond the Border thing is new to me, but I recognize it’s framework clearly enough, and I just don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

        One thing that all this brings to mind is my big umbrage – black market arts and antiquities. An unbelievable problem to begin with, and made unbelievably worse by war and austerity. Manhattan seems to be where a lot of illegal items end up. Beyond the Border would massively improve the problem on this end. Looting and theft of ancient Greek antiquities has gotten so bad since austerity that the Greeks can’t protect them anymore -literally. At this point it’s safer to leave them in the ground. Even then, can’t protect them from looters. The Baghdad Museum just reopened this week – even so, at least 15,000 artifacts gone – Babylonian, Sumerian, Assyrian – gone. The UK is having quite the run with looted churches – lots of holy relics oddly enough. Mostly metal, though.

        No, I’d have to say that I have yet to find evidence for the claims in this article. Can’t confirm that DHS is doing what this author says they are doing. And I’d have to conclude that the Beyond the Border cooperative is really groovy.

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