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    July 28, 2007

    Another victim in the war on terror

    Posted by: Chris

    180pxgay_terrorist Beware the gay terrorist! Is the looming pink menace so threatening that the White House has taken note?

    Please tell me the exigent circumstances under which the United States might need to know if  airline passenger arriving into the country from Europe might be…gay. And yet there it is, in today's Washington Post.

    In yet the latest example of colossal overreach in the name of our "war on terror," the Bush administration has cajoled European Union officials and the airline industry into dramatically expanding the range of information the U.S. will receive 72 hours before each American-bound jet leaves Europe.

    Under the agreement, airlines flying from Europe to the United States are required to provide data related to these matters to U.S. authorities if it exists in their reservation systems. The deal allows Washington to retain and use it only "where the life of a data subject or of others could be imperiled or seriously impaired," such as in a counterterrorism investigation. According to the deal, the information that can be used in such exceptional circumstances includes "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership" and data about an individual's health, traveling partners and sexual orientation.

    The article is a bit vague about how it is, in the first place, that an airline might have gathered information so personal as to include a passenger's sexual orientation. But given all the bits of data gathered about every aspect of our lives these days, it's not too paranoid a stretch. The Post reports:

    Airlines do not usually gather such data, but officials say it could wind up in passenger files as a result of requests for special services such as wheelchairs, or through routine questioning by airline personnel and travel agents about contacts, lodging, next of kin and traveling companions. Even a request for a king-size bed at a hotel could be noted in the database.

    So maybe there's not a field marked "sexual orientation" in the airline's database, just the fact that you booked an airline ticket in conjunction with an Atlantis cruise, or typically traveled with the same same-sex passenger and booked a king-size bed, etc.

    Like most Americans, I understand that the "war on terror" can cause all manner of inconvenience and minor invasion of privacy. But the Bush administration has proven, time and again, that the end will always justify the means. And the Cheney-led penchant for secrecy means we only know a small fragment of the measures actually being taken.

    So if things look this bad from what's visible, we can only imagine the data mining that goes on in reality. It's not necessarily a gay-specific issue for the 2008 election, but it would be refreshing and reassuring to hear some presidential candidates talk more about the need to balance the "war on terror" with the civil rights of those being protected.

    I won't hold my breath. The leading Democrats are already terrorized — of being "soft on terror." And the least right-wing Republican in the White House race already proved as mayor of New York that he has zero respect for civil liberties in the fight against crime.



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    1. anon on Jul 28, 2007 11:44:34 PM:

      I don't agree with this new policy at all but I do see many ways that an airline might not if you are gay. For example, in England gays can marry so if your spouse is traveling with you it might be listed that your spouse is with you. The airlines don't take down if you are Jewish but if you order a kosher meal they might assume that you are Jewish.

      In both circumstances the assumptions might be wrong . For example, many non-Jewish people order kosher meals because they don't eat pork.

      I think people should not try to prevent anyone from knowing if they are gay but what's more important is why the government wants to know. What are they doing with the information?

      The only thing that comes to mind is the HIV travel ban that the US has on incoming visitors with HIV and of course not all HIV folks are gay.

      This is truly a disturbing development.

    1. gleeindc on Jul 29, 2007 7:28:44 AM:

      Now, in addition to taking off your shoes, you will be asked to kiss either the male Travel Security Agent or the Female Travel Security Agent and they will note which one you choose to determine your orientation?

    1. Sean on Jul 29, 2007 2:38:13 PM:

      I agree with this policy. Almost all terrorists are straight. Read number four of this article about why sucide bombers kill.


      They kill because there is a lack of woman due to polygyny. The most successful men take many wives leaving a shortage of women for unsuccesful men. Since they have no partner they have nothing to lose and with the promise of 72 virgins in the "afterlife" it's almost certain they will plot terror opporations.

    1. Andoni on Jul 29, 2007 7:35:58 PM:

      Wow, what great news: almost all terrorists are straight. So now I have another argument why they should allow a gay US citizen to sponsor and bring in his gay foreign partner. As for those straights who are already allowed to bring in their straight foreign partner, we should insist that they toughen standards for them because of this new information. :)

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 30, 2007 2:10:44 PM:

      I think it's naive to believe the U.S. government would only use data showing a passenger is gay to "exclude" them as terrorists based on sketchy psychological profiling.

      I agree with Anon that the most likely misuse relates to the inane ban on immigration by people who are HIV-positive. (Legislation to change this rule is also languishing in the Democratic-controlled Congress, despite bipartisan support.)

      And just keep in mind that we have learned, time and again, that the Bush administration's "war on terror" is shrouded in secrecy and there are all sorts of programs we know nothing about. I don't consider myself paranoid in the slightest, but I do see real risk of abuse in allowing the government to warehouse such personal information for up to 15 years (and beyond, as the Post article points out).

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