- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

John Gilmore doesn’t want to be identified.

Whether it’s at the airport check-in counter, railway station or bus depot, Mr. Gilmore will not show identification, and he wants the federal government to produce the “secret law” that requires travelers to do so or be barred from commercial travel.

Mr. Gilmore says travelling without identification is what distinguishes a free country from totalitarianism, pointing out that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were sticklers for travel documents.

The Justice Department says it will identify the law in a court case brought against it and the Homeland Security Department by Mr. Gilmore, but only if the secret reasons for its top-secret status remain under a court seal.

“The government would also file and serve a redacted, unsealed version of the brief as well. That procedure will adequately safeguard any sensitive security information [SSI] while permitting this court’s independent review of the merits of plaintiffs’ claim,” said the request filed by the Justice Department on Sept. 3.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration said he could not comment on the ongoing litigation, but said “knowing who gets on an airplane is an important layer in our aviation security.”

Mr. Gilmore’s attorneys called Justice’s request an “extreme cry for secrecy” that is “disturbing and illustrates the dangers of secret law,” and, in a brief filed Tuesday in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said Justice does not cite legal authority for such handling of the law.

The case was originally filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco but dismissed. In that case, the government did not produce any law or regulation requiring the identification of passengers.

“Our judicial system is based on the deeply felt principle that each side must have the opportunity to be fully and fairly heard,” the motion said.

“If [TSA Administrator David Stone] is not willing to make public this law, then he should not be permitted to secretly use it as evidence of its constitutionality,” the motion said.

Mr. Gilmore, an entrepreneur in the computer industry based in San Francisco, says his no-ID stance has made it difficult for him to do his job.

“I’ve flown internationally, and I’m willing to show my passport to leave the country, but I’m not willing to show a passport to travel in my country,” said Mr. Gilmore, who also works for companies in Minneapolis and upstate New York.

He has on occasion been able to talk his way onto an aircraft without showing identification.

“The hardest question to answer is ‘show me the law, the regulation, and the rule that requires this,’ and none of them could, and never have,” Mr. Gilmore said.

The government maintains that there is a law prohibiting the disclosure of SSI, and administration officials have the power to prohibit the disclosure of any information that would “harm transportation security.”

One administration official said the rules vary from airline to airline, and that if someone forgot to bring identification they may just get additional screening and be allowed to board.

Mr. Gilmore said he doubts a law exists.

“If we want to keep our country free, maybe we should have a debate about that, rather than have it deposed in secret,” he said.

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