Edward Hasbrouck

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.

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Under a series of new laws and regulatory proposals, almost everyone traveling internationally to or from the USA — U.S. passport holders, visa-free foreign visitors, and foreigners with visas — would have to pay more in government fees for the required credentials and/or permissions.

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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.

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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.

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In a press release announcing the filing, headlined “Business Will Continue Unaffected”, Mesa claimed that, “Customers can be assured that tickets will continue to be sold and honored, all terms and conditions governing tickets purchased remain the same, and our frequent flyer program remains intact.” That’s a lie.

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Given space for a rebuttal on the same page with today’s USA Today editorial, When airlines share codes, truth-in-labeling suffers , president Roger Cohen of the Regional Airline Association (RAA) trots out the airlines’ usual “big lie” on code sharing, in unusually blatant form.

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There are no legally binding rules (other than those provided by the federal Privacy Act, the U.S. Constitution, and international human rights treaties, all of which the TSA routinely ignores) specifying the limits of TSA authority at checkpoints, what you do and don’t have to do, and which questions you have to answer or orders you have to obey.

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I’ve previously recommended the credit card issued by Chase in conjunction with the Amtrak Guest Rewards frequent-rider program as one of the best frequent-traveler credit cards, depending on whether you travel regularly on Amtrak, and if so on which routes. It has high fees for foreign transactions, cash advances, or interest if you don’t pay […]

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In a ruling issued 22 October 2009, the judge hearing the Federal class-action lawsuit against credit card companies for fraudulently hidden and/or inflated fees for credit, debit, and ATM transactions in foreign currencies has overruled all of the objections to the settlement and to the plan for allocating what’s left of the third of a billion dollar settlement fund after the lawyers get their fee. The only major change made by the judge was to cut the lawyers’ fee down from the US$85 million they asked for to a little over US$50 million (plus expenses).

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