The Guardian reports that the U.S. government is circulating a memo and beginning negotiations in Europe to intensify security measures:
- Airlines would be required to give passengers’ personal data to the Transportation Security Administration even for flights merely overflying the United States.
- Travelers from countries in Europe for which the United States waives visas would be required to apply permission from the TSA to enter the country before purchasing a ticket.
- Airlines would be required to provide the TSA with personal information of those accompanying travelers past security checkpoints but not actually traveling to the U.S.
- Noncompliant countries would lose their visa waivers.
If this turns out to be accurate — I cannot entirely trust the Guardian‘s slant — then let me be the first to say: What. Is. The. TSA. Thinking?!
First, waived visa requirements allow massively valuable financial, business, political, educational, and cultural interchanges. If the U.S. slaps visa requirements on a noncompliant country, retaliation is likely. One might say that the other country stands to lose more, but the United States is the country with the low-value currency. More and more, we are a tourist destination for Europeans, and imposing visa restrictions will stanch that valuable flow. Beyond that, it constitutes a giant middle finger to a lot of countries that are — if not our best friends — security allies and trade partners. Why is the TSA conducting foreign policy?
Second, who trusts the TSA to administer programs like this? This is the agency that lost a hard drive with the personal info of 100,000 employees. This is the agency whose U.S. passenger database has been held up by Congress pending confirmation that it will have adequate privacy protections. The TSA’s track record will not reassure our European allies nervous about privacy concerns.
I’ll be checking for more news reports to verify the Guardian story and will update here as the situation warrants.
Bush orders clampdown on flights to US [Guardian]