Friday, December 02, 2005

Another Threat Aborning

What with all the noise from Congress about a national ID card, many of us had resigned ourselves to a certain amount of added exposure to government scrutiny, probably consisting of more coordination between the States and the development of a more rigorous driver licensing regime, as a lesser of the evils. One could rationalize that most, if not all, of this info could already be divined by a determined Big Brother, intent on keeping tabs on us law-abiding citizens. Hey, we thought, maybe this will make us a bit safer, and this is a tide that can not be resisted in any case. Now comes the Centers for Disease Control and that seems to be very wishful thinking indeed. In a little-noticed action, the CDC has proposed a rule that would greatly expand the powers of the federal government to track and quarantine individual travelers. The federal government, airline and shipping industries would scrutinize travelers more closely than has ever been attempted before. At least, not in this country.

According to CDC, "[t]his set of data is greater than the set of information currently collected by the airlines, [global distribution systems], or travel agencies." What do these fine federal friends seek to know about us? merely
Permanent address, email address, passport information, traveling companions or group, emergency contact information (including at least name of an alternate person or business and a phone number), phone number(s) for the passenger, itinerary, and other flight information.
All this data would be required to be collected by the carriers, for any passenger on an airliner, train, or bus. The rule also broadens the list of symptoms that would make passengers subject to quarantine. It would allow the CDC to detain a sick individual for three business days without a hearing. After that time, the CDC Director would have the power to quarantine an individual until the end of "the period of incubation and communicability for the communicable disease as determined by the Director." For most diseases, this would be about a month. During that month, the quarantined person would be able to have an administrative hearing, but only to dispute actual evidence on whether the person has been exposed to a disease. Legal or constitutional claims could not be addressed by the hearing, though detainees could petition for a writ of habeas corpus for judicial review of the quarantine order.

The new rule, estimated to cost up to $865 million a year, would require airline and shipping industries to gather passenger contact and health information, maintain it electronically for at least 60 days, and release it to the CDC within 12 hours of a request. The CDC would retain the information for a year. Since this rule would be a blatant violation of The Privacy Act, Congress would presumably have to change the Act. We can expect that democrats as well as republicans will embrace this travesty as a demonstration of their ability to act in a non-partisan manner. Of course, it is completely partisan for members of Congress to act against our freedoms, as the real two sides, the real partisans, is us, against them. The bogeyman now is no longer Osama, but the bird flu. You remember the bird flu. That is the disease that does not yet exist in a dangerous form, but every public health bureaucrat with his or her greed intact swears that it is about to change into something that will endanger us all. Nervous nellies of every stripe are showing signs of going along with the bird flu power grab, but until this CDC proposal, all they wanted was money. Now they want our freedom.

CDC says that this request is nothing new. Again, according to their proposal
The Secretarys authority to quarantine persons is limited to those communicable diseases published in an Executive Order of the President. This list currently includes cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, and viral hemorrhagic fevers, such as Marburg, Ebola and Congo-Crimean, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and influenza caused by novel or reemergent influenza viruses that are causing or have the potential to cause a pandemic
Limited! Notice how, once taken, our freedoms are never restored to us. Cholera is still on the list, and it has not been a threat to Americans since WW II. As a past victim of Cholera, I can attest to the fact that the cure is no more complicated than plenty of water, rest, and Tetracycline, with the Tetracycline being entirely optional. It can not be spread in any area with modern plumbing, yet the government had chosen to retain the right to quarrantine us, for no more than a glorified case of the runs. But at least Cholera is an actual disease. Bird flu does not yet exist, but that fact does not stop the government from using it as a convenient bogeyman to keep tabs on ALL travellers, wherever we go. Within the proposal I could find no restrictions on the level of travel they might choose to focus on. Pass this rule, and they will have the right to scrutinize every subway passenger. Past being prologue, give them the right, and they will exercize it.

In an almost related action, federal officials have arrested and charged a woman who refused to give her identification to a security guard, as she sat on a public bus. Once again, our freedoms creep away, all in the name of "security." Against whom? A private person, minding her business on her way to work. Terrorists terrorize, and illegals pour over our borders, unchecked, and the response of our government is to harrass citizens? NOT! The response of our government is to use any pretense to expand their power to control and monitor us. That is what they do. That is expected. The frightening thing? Where is the outrage? Who cares? A small minority, at best. Each one of us has to wonder, when will they come for ME?