One of the most important principles that protects consumers of travel services is that travel is a right. Your right to travel (both in general and specifically by air) is recognized by U.S. law and by international human rights treaties. That’s why an airline isn’t like an ordinary business which can say, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”
Ignoring massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms illegally without approval, the State Department is trying again to get approval for a pair of impossible-to-complete new passport application forms that would, in effect, allow the State Department to deny you a passport simply by choosing to send you either or both of the new “long forms.”
If you used a US-issued VISA or MasterCard, or a VISA or MasterCard-branded ATM card, to make purchases or withdraw cash in foreign currency between 1996 and 2006, look for a check like the one below in your mail this week. Mine was delivered yesterday, so yours might have been delivered a few days ago, [...]
If you don’t want it to get even harder for a U.S. citizen to get a passport — now required for travel even to Canada or Mexico — you only have until Monday to let the State Department know. The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The [...]
This week the Department of State published an interim final rule putting its previously proposed increases in passport and visa fees into effect as of July 13, 2010.
Some people I know, even some Europeans, think I’m wrong. The public has a short memory and a large desire for cheap flights, they argue. Unless there’s another large eruption soon, they think Europeans will go back to air travel as usual.
We don’t think it’s fair or legal for the government to charge you a fee to exercise your rights under the First Amendment and international human rights treaties to enter or leave the USA. Those rights are all but absolute, and rules that restrict or burden them, such as by imposing fees, are subject to strict scrutiny.
The Obama Administration announced their fiscal year 2010 budget proposal today. Under the administration’s proposal for DHS appropriations, the TSA’s annual budget would increase by more than a billion dollars from 2009 to 2011, with most of that going toward the purchase of “up to 1,000″ new virtual strip-search (”Whole Body Imaging” or, in the latest euphemistic language of the budget, “Advanced Imaging Technology”) machines.
Already this week the TSA was caught in a lie about what it likes to call whole body imaging (virtual strip search) machines, when the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained documents showing that, despite TSA claims that “this state-of-the-art technology cannot store, print, transmit or save the image,” the TSA actually requires all of these capabilities — image storage, printing, and transmission — as part of the contract specifications for the body scanners.