I have been using theÂ TSA PreCheckÂ service since soon after its inception in 2011, without paying an enrollment fee, after being invited byÂ US AirwaysÂ to participate. This has allowed me to use theÂ simpler and faster TSA PreCheck lane at airport security, rather than joining the majority of fliers in regular security lines.Â However a couple of weeks ago, I received a notice fromÂ American Airlines,Â which is merging with US Airways, that I now needed to register for a â€œKnown Traveler Numberâ€ (KTN) so I can continue to use the PreCheck service. I donâ€™t really know why my gratis status is no longer acceptable, but it apparently it is.
So, I filled out a pre-registration form atÂ Universal EnrollÂ last week, booked at a screening appointment at a registration center a few miles from my house, and went through the final process today.Â
Todayâ€™s registration process was unexpectedly painless. It took less than 15 minutes, including a short wait in the lobby, fingerprinting, stepping through a series of Identity Proofing steps and paying the $85 fee. Alas, I still donâ€™t have a KTN. Â That is supposed to be issued in a week or two after some big computer in the sky processes my information. Then, I am supposed to be set up to use the PreCheck lane every time.
The downside? Â The government has me in yet another identity database. Â My KTN will be linked to my SSN, as well as to my fingerprints and other personal identification data. Big Brother seems closer than ever before!
Next step after the KTN? Â I will need to get a newÂ Arizona drivers license that is Real ID compliantÂ before January if I want to continue flying. Yet another Federal tentacle into my life!Â
I had a quite unpleasant experience with one branch of the US National Police, the Transportation Security Agency, in the Phoenix airport last week, but that pales in comparison to what is happening in Russia. According to the Newsweek article, â€œRussiaâ€™s New Police State,â€ the increasingly totalitarian Russian government has enacted two new laws giving Russiaâ€™s â€œspectacularly corrupt, inept, and brutal policeâ€ sweeping new powers.
In a nation whose government has apparently moved to restore the brutal excesses of the USSR secret police,
â€œPublic trust in the police has cratered; according to a recent survey by the Moscow-based Levada Center, more than 70 percent of Russians distrust all branches of law enforcement. â€˜Russia is now one of those countries where citizens expect more unpleasantness, problems, and even criminality from the police than from actual criminals,â€™ says independent political analyst Nikolai Zlobinâ€
The first new law:
â€œgives the FSB [Federal Security Service] powers to arrest people on suspicion of planning an act â€˜contrary to the countryâ€™s securityâ€™ before they have actually done anything illegal. The law also establishes fines and detentions of up to 15 days for people seen as â€˜hindering the work of an FSB employee.â€™ The new powers given to the secret police under the new law was one of the reasons cited by presidential human-rights adviser Ella Pamfilova for her resignation last month.â€
The second law goes even further:
â€œDespite some clauses included at the behest of the Presidential Human Rights Commissionâ€”such as an explicit ban on tortureâ€”much of the new law would extend the policeâ€™s already extensive authority. They would have almost unlimited power to stop and search people and to detain them for up to an hour just to check their documents, a reversal of the presumption of innocence enshrined in the Russian Constitution. Police can also now enter private homes without a warrant.â€
So maybe the TSA, with all their snappy new police uniforms, condescending bravado and increasingly privacy-infringing search methods, arenâ€™t so bad â€¦ yet. But we must always be wary and watchful. The freedoms we enjoy, those guaranteed by an inspired constitution, must never be subjugated to over reaching police power.