Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are You American? Could You Get A Passport Today? - UPDATED

H/T ellroon, who points us to digby, who says...

Remember when Alaskan extremist candidate Joe Miller cited East Germany's border fence as a fine example and we all laughed and laughed because their fence was built to keep their own people in rather than keeping foreign people out?

Well, the laugh's on us. We may not be literally building such a fence, but we are creating a virtual one:

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:

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. ...


Digby's assessment:
This is Big Brother stuff --- they are setting up a series of roadblocks to use "just in case" they want to deny someone a passport. The question is, who and why? ...
Big Brother stuff. Is that too strong a statement? I really don't know, and I hardly ever travel these days, domestically, let alone internationally.

But about a couple years ago, some time after I moved to this house, I ran across my old passport as I unpacked from the move. It was about to expire, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Something told me that it was worth the time and money (which was considerable; I missed the renewal date by ONE DAY) to have a current passport. I doubt seriously that I shall outlive this new one, but I had a sense that it was not a good idea to wait until I had imminent travel plans to undertake the renewal. I promptly renewed the passport. Now I can at least visit the West Coast of Canada again if I'm lucky enough to regain my physical ability to travel; that was one very beautiful place, and I'd like to see it again before I step on a rainbow.

Why is this happening? What kind of USA wants to make international travel difficult for ordinary citizens? It makes no sense, even for the purveyors of empire, to restrict travel. Hell, it's bad for business of just about any kind. Why are they proposing to do this? I cannot think of an innocuous reason; can you?

UPDATE: BadTux says this turns out to be just another way of obtaining a passport, the only way if your original proofs of citizenship are lost. Let us hope that's all it is. See BadTux's comment on the thread of this post.


  1. I did some research here and basically this form is only *if you have no government-issued birth certificate or certificate of naturalization to prove your citizenship*. Right now if you lack a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization, you basically cannot *get* a passport, period, since a passport also serves as proof of citizenship. This form is to gather information for investigation as to whether you are a citizen or not, and it is *not* expected that you will be able to fill out every single thing on the form... rather, if you've filled in enough information that a passport examiner can verify to decide that you are a citizen, then he can issue the passport, whereas right now, basically his hands are tied -- no papers proving citizenship, no passport.

    In other words, this form is basically *loosening* the passport restrictions by adding an additional way to get a passport if you can't provide the traditional ways of proving you're a citizen.

    It's easy to get carried away with Orwellian conspiracy theories, but sometimes they're just wrong. The Obama administration is no friend to civil liberties, but this isn't one of the cases where that's so.

    - Badtux the Non-conspiratorial Penguin

  2. Thanks, BadTux; none of that surrounding context was available to me in digby's post.

    I do have to wonder if we're entering an era in which proof of citizenship is a commonly required item... a sort of "ihre Papiere, bitte" era. Will all farm workers be required to carry proof of citizenship? Among those, will only those who look Hispanic have their papers checked? Are we headed for a time in which carrying papers will be required within the United States, e.g., at internal state border crossings or interstate domestic air departures/arrivals? (I haven't flown in ages; for all I know, they already do that last one.)

    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis summed up the right of privacy as "the right to be let alone." This seems to me a significant step back from that principle. But maybe I'm just not viewing it in the right light.

  3. Thanks, BadTux, that makes me feel a little better...



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