Americans Have the Right to See Laws They Must Follow

Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of non-profit organizations asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to hear a case challenging a secret law governing travelers in American airports.

The case centers on the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) requirement that travelers show identification before boarding commercial aircraft. So far, the TSA has refused to disclose the terms of the identification requirement to the public, claiming that they are "sensitive security information." In the amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear Gilmore v. Gonzales, EFF demonstrates that Congress never intended agencies to have unfettered discretion to impose requirements upon the public without allowing the public to review them.

"The TSA is allowed to withhold some information from the public, but only in cases where transportation security is at risk," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Simply showing Americans the rules they must follow can't possibly compromise security. The real danger here is meaningless secrecy, which can hide security flaws, frustrate the justice system, create confusion, and undermine government accountability."

The Constitution and laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) prohibit the government from imposing secret laws on the public. But if the lower court decision permitting the secrecy is allowed to stand, it opens the door to other government agencies creating undisclosed rules and regulations without oversight.

"'Security' shouldn't be a magic password allowing the government to escape accountability," said Hofmann. "The Supreme Court should hear this case and review why the TSA insists on keeping this basic information secret."

The amicus brief was also signed by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology, National Security Archive, Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists, and Special Libraries Association.

For the full amicus brief:


Marcia Hofmann
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation