Secret Laws?

I’ve just been reading about this case where a guy wanted to fly on an airplane without showing his ID. The idea of the government demanding to see your ID before you fly is a bit disturbing, but can probably be justified. What really freaks me out is that the law requiring the ID check is secret.

How in the world can we be expected not to break a law if we’re not allowed to know what the law is? What happened to due process? I sure hope there’s not a secret law against calling into question secret laws.

For those interested, here’s a link to the 9th US Circuit Court’s opinion. From what I can tell, they didn’t rule on the bit about secret laws (due to jurisdiction) — only on the part about having to show ID to fly.

Here’s a part of the opinion that I found funny: “the Constitution does not guarantee the right to travel by any particular form of transportation.” Does the constitution guarantee the right to travel to a particular location (assuming you’re allowed to be at that location)? If you say no, then what does it mean to have a right to travel if you can’t choose where to travel? It’s hardly a right if you’re only allowed to travel within your cell er… home.

On the other hand, if you do think you do have the right to choose where to travel, then there is another problem. What if there is only one practical form of transportation (say by air from Hawaii to Washington DC), then isn’t a law restricting a “particular form of transportation” the equivalent to a law restricting travel to that location altogether?

Here’s the problem with this case as I see it. First of all, no laws should be secret. I should be able to learn about the law before I’m affected by it. I should also be able to learn the exact text of the law, not just a summary such as “All Passengers Must Present ID Before Boarding”. Unfortunately, this case got the jurisdiction wrong, so we don’t know if secret laws are constitutional. If they are, I want to change the constitution.

Secondly, the plaintiff wasn’t able to demonstrate that commercial air travel was the only practical method of reaching his destination. Maybe someone from Alaska or Hawaii will sue next. Of course, for them to have a valid complaint, they would have to demonstrate that having to show your ID is an unreasonable search — I don’t think it is (as long as it applies to everyone).

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