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The TSA, in its never-ending quest to inconvenience us without keeping us safe, has once again changed its rules on identification. According to the old rule, if you didn’t provide ID at the airport, you would be subjected to secondary screening. Now, you may be denied the right to fly entirely. According to the TSA:

Beginning Saturday, June 21, 2008 passengers that willfully refuse to provide identification at security checkpoint will be denied access to the secure area of airports. This change will apply exclusively to individuals that simply refuse to provide any identification or assist transportation security officers in ascertaining their identity.

This new procedure will not affect passengers that may have misplaced, lost or otherwise do not have ID but are cooperative with officers. Cooperative passengers without ID may be subjected to additional screening protocols, including enhanced physical screening, enhanced carry-on and/or checked baggage screening, interviews with behavior detection or law enforcement officers and other measures.

What this rule basically seems to be doing is trying to prevent people who have a conscientious objection to presenting ID from being able to fly. For example, John Gilmore refused to present his ID and challenged the TSA identification requirement in federal court. He lost in the 9th Circuit, which held that he could have undergone secondary screening or walked away — he wasn’t forced to present his ID.

I’m one who routinely presents my ID to the TSA officials at the airport. I think that the ID requirement is stupid, but I just want to get to my plane and not be hassled. But others, for reasons of conscience or protest, do not want to present their ID at the airport. This new TSA rule strikes me as problematic from a First Amendment standpoint, since it seems to be designed to target those who don’t present ID for expressive reasons. As such, this new TSA requirement might be a form of viewpoint discrimination.

Although the First Amendment doesn’t restrict the TSA from requiring IDs in order to board an airplane, it does restrict using the ID requirement to penalize people who engage in expressive conduct. Because the TSA requirement seems to be targeted to this kind of expressive conduct (hence the exception for lost or stolen IDs), it may run afoul of the First Amendment.

I haven’t fully analyzed this argument, so I’m just throwing it out there. Do you think that there is a First Amendment problem with the new TSA rule?

Hat tip: Bruce Schneier, who writes: “I don’t think any further proof is needed that the ID requirement has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with control.” Indeed, this rule will allow TSA officials who don’t like you to have even greater power. If you lose your ID, you better hope that the TSA officials believe you, take pity on you, and otherwise think you’re being cooperative. It’s entirely up to them!

Originally Posted at Concurring Opinions

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This post was authored by Professor Daniel J. Solove, who through TeachPrivacy develops computer-based privacy training, data security training, HIPAA training, and many other forms of awareness training on privacy and security topics. Professor Solove also posts at his blog at LinkedIn. His blog has more than 1 million followers.

Professor Solove is the organizer, along with Paul Schwartz, of the Privacy + Security Forum and International Privacy + Security Forum, annual events designed for seasoned professionals.

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