Time, Distance and Shielding

My previous article, 'Identities and Aliases', generated several concerns from readers. This article addresses some of those concerns and includes several very simple methods to protect your privacy, Hiibel and Terry notwithstanding.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. If you have specific questions, I suggest you consult a competent attorney, if you can find one.

First, my last article was very narrow in scope, on purpose. It was not meant to be all-inclusive and it did not address any of the issues raised when engaged in a state-regulated activity, such as operating a registered motor vehicle on public highways. In those types of scenarios, other laws also apply that vary from state to state.

Second, the only example that I included was a pedestrian being stopped and detained by a police officer, to illustrate my point.

Third, Terry allows police officers to stop, detain, and frisk anyone, anywhere, at any time for suspicious behavior or reasonable suspicion of committing a crime. The court's narrow (5-4) decision in Hiibel adds only one thing: It specifically allows police officers to also ask detainees to identify themselves.

Fourth, at least 21 states already have laws similar to the Nevada law that requires detainees to identify themselves when requested to do so by a police officer.

Fifth, if you live in one of those 21 states, Hiibel has little or no effect on you.

I offer two simple observations that you can still easily use to protect your privacy:

  • ' In general, U.S. citizens are not required to possess or carry a photo ID.
  • ' If you keep your driver's license in the glove box of your vehicle, you 'don't have it with you' should anyone ever ask to see it while you are on foot.

Alternate Names

J. J. Luna, a privacy consultant, writes in How To Be Invisible, 'Why would you, a model citizen and taxpayer, ever temporarily need another name? The reasons in many books include overwhelming debts, threatened vengeance by wrathful in-laws, a marriage gone bad, or getting on a Mafia hit list. But circumstances and situations can change in a heartbeat, and thousands of persons living a tranquil life one day have resorted to flight the next. The fact that you are right and the charges are wrong may be meaningless ' just ask any lawyer if he can get you justice. The stock answer is, 'How much justice can you afford?'

'By the way, let's not call your second name an 'alias,' that's only for the criminal types. What you want is a perfectly respectable alternate name, an assumed name, a nom de plume, nom de guerre, also called a pseudonym. (These can be used almost anywhere, as long as there is no intent to defraud.) . . . . For privacy, nothing beats a common name, because it is so hard to identify which one belongs to you. (Just ask any PI.)'1

Legal Name Change

'This is seldom recommended. After all, you may use one or more additional names and still retain your legal name . . . . [If you do choose to legally change your name] I suggest you choose a common name, one that will be shared with thousands of others. In the USA , 25 percent of men of retirement age have one of [five common first names, which he lists].'2

Luna also includes a list of 14 of the more common last names from the passenger manifest of the Mayflower.

The Use Method of Changing Your Name

'The use method requires no lawyer, no trip to the courthouse, and is not legally registered anywhere. You simply begin using your new name everywhere. Keep in mind, however, that you will not be able to open a bank account nor obtain a driver's license with the new name. However, if you pay cash, you may be able to get by with no problem. You will, of course, always use your true name (1) when stopped by the police and asked for your license, (2) for your auto insurance, (3) for your income tax return, and (4) when purchasing a plane ticket and later identifying yourself at the airport.'3

Time, Distance, and Shielding

Years ago, in another lifetime, I was intimately familiar with the handling and employment of a large portion of the U.S. strategic nuclear weapons inventory.

One of the first things that you learn in that arena is how to minimize your exposure to the Bad Thing: radiation. You use three simple methods: time, distance, and shielding.

You minimize exposure by minimizing the time spent in close proximity to the warheads and by maximizing both distance and shielding between yourself and the warheads. These same methods can also be employed to minimize one's exposure to a much more pervasive, but just as deadly, Bad Thing: the State and its agents.

I suggest that you plan and live your life accordingly, if you value your privacy.4

See my related articles, 'Hiding In Plain Sight' and 'Your Right To Privacy.'


1. J. J. Luna, How To Be Invisible, Revised and Updated ( New York : St. Martin 's Press, 2004), pp. 112-113.

2. Ibid, pp. 116-117.

3. Ibid, p. 117.

4. An attorney advised me to 'not write so affirmatively,' e.g. recommend. His concern was that some readers would construe my personal opinions as legal advice, disclaimer notwithstanding.

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Joe Blow is a privacy advocate with proven subspecialties in strategic planning.  Note: Pirate Poop is now a free newsletter, available by email only. Send all subscription requests to joeblow073@yahoo.com