An absolutely insane move by the Department of “Homeland” Security

Not too long ago, The Independent reported on an audacious request by the US Department of Homeland Security. That request was for British airlines to submit the personal data of British citizens flying to Cuba, Mexico, and parts of Canada to the US DHS.

From the article:

New rules require British Airways and other airlines flying to certain airports outside America to submit passengers’ personal data to US authorities. The information is checked against a “No Fly” list containing tens of thousands of names. Even if the flight plan steers well clear of US territory, travellers whom the Americans regard as suspicious will be denied boarding.

Yes, you read that right: even when the flights don’t go over US airspace, much less land in the country.

And it’s this kind of meddling in the affairs of other countries that makes me give pause to being proud to be an American. I don’t see how it is the business of the US government what citizens of another country are flying to, say, Toronto or Mexico City.

To make matters worse (again quoting the article):

Those who do supply details may find their trip could be abruptly cancelled by the Department of Homeland Security, which says it will “[m]ake boarding pass determinations up until the time a flight leaves the gate … If a passenger successfully obtains a boarding pass, his/her name is not on the No Fly list.” In other words, travellers cannot find out whether they will be accepted on board until they reach the airport.

So, a British citizen planning a vacation in Cancún could arrive at the airport, go through all the song and dance required by security, then find out at the gate that the US DHS has placed him on the “no fly list” and the vacation is off.

One also has to wonder how an American traveller in Europe would react if he were denied boarding on a flight from London to Rome because the German government had not received sufficient data from him.

And some still wonder why the rest of the world dislikes Americans and hates the US government. Well, things like this are why. This is a slap in the face to the rest of the world. This is, dare I say it, un-American. I don’t know what the DHS was thinking when they came up with this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this runs afoul of some international law somewhere.

Shame on you, DHS.

Bozeman’s city government engaging in flagrant snooping

Ars Technica reports on the city of Bozeman, Montana, USA and its very nosy–and possibly illegal–city government job application requirements.

The city of Bozeman does not stop at asking applicants to divulge “any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.” That would be nosy enough.

No, they also want the passwords. That, in my opinion, steps way over the line.

I found a listing of state computer crimes laws at For Montana, the relevant sections are: “Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-1-205(4), 45-2-101, 45-6-310, 45-6-311.” In order:

  • 45-1-205(4) is the statute of limitations, which isn’t really relevant here;
  • 45-2-101 is a listing of general definitions, none of which appear to be anything unexpected;
  • 45-6-310 and 45-6-311 are the “meat” of the computer crimes laws in Montana, and what I will be focusing on.

Depending on how exactly one reads 45-6-310 and 45-6-311, the Montana Code sections which detail “computer use” and “unlawful use of a computer,” this may even violate Montana state law:

45-6-310. Definition — computer use. As used in 45-6-311, the term “obtain the use of” means to instruct, communicate with, store data in, retrieve data from, cause input to, cause output from, or otherwise make use of any resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network or to cause another to instruct, communicate with, store data in, retrieve data from, cause input to, cause output from, or otherwise make use of any resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network.
45-6-311. Unlawful use of a computer. (1) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of a computer if the person knowingly or purposely:
(a) obtains the use of any computer, computer system, or computer network without consent of the owner;
(b) alters or destroys or causes another to alter or destroy a computer program or computer software without consent of the owner; or
© obtains the use of or alters or destroys a computer, computer system, computer network, or any part thereof as part of a deception for the purpose of obtaining money, property, or computer services from the owner of the computer, computer system, computer network, or part thereof or from any other person.

The way I read the law, the owner, here, would be Facebook, Google, etc. who would have to consent to access of their system, by the city of Bozeman’s HR department, under the identity of the prospective employee. Maybe my interpetation of the law is completely different from how a judge would see it; maybe I have some law students out there laughing their heads off. I don’t know, but it certainly looks at least legally dubious to me, if not outright unlawful.

Even if perfectly legal under Montana law (and that is a huge “if”), the legal liability if just one of those applications gets mishandled (read “not shredded into really tiny pieces after use”) is enormous.

Conclusion: I don’t know what is in the water up there in Bozeman, Montana, but it can’t be good.