Monday, 29 March 2004

Public radio report on CAPPS-II features tired TSA lies

I was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio's Jeff Horwich for a two-part, 15-minute feature on CAPPS-II that's being broadcast today and tomorrow:

Part One: Years after 9/11, passenger screening system still grounded
Part Two: Civil liberties groups fear travel "surveillance"

Transcripts:

Real Audio streams:

The USA Transportation Security Administration's latest spokesperson, Mark Hatfield, resoonds to my criticisms and those of other privacy advocates and civil libertarians by telling Horwich that, "When you get shrill opponents out there who make simply false claims in an effort to either fear-monger or discredit the program, it's truly unfortunate."

But it's Hatfield, unfortunately, who makes the false claims in his very next sound bite: "While opponents fear the TSA will compile a 'travel dossier' that keeps a running log of our movements, Hatfield says that would be impossible."

Hatfield and the TSA may think it's impossible (nobody at the TSA -- at any rate, nobody involved in designing CAPPS-II -- appears to have any real understanding of how airline reservation data is collected, entered, stored, and processed) but it's very much possible, both for airlines and the government.

The Department of Homeland Security admitted as much in its Privacy Impact Assessment for the US-VISIT system, which would incorporate data obtained from CAPPS-II into biometric and biographic travel histories stored by the government for up to 100 years.

Hatfield continues, "The travel information used in CAPPS II will be deleted shortly after a trip is completed."

The government will delete some of its copies (but not those transferred by the TSA to the US-VISIT system or other agencies or databases), but the airlines can keep their copies for as long as they like -- several years at minimum just for accounting purposes, probably for life once they realize the marketing value of the additional data travellers will be required to provide for CAPPS-II.

"What's more, Hatfield says the TSA will never actually touch that data." But there's absolutely nothing in any current USA law, or in any of the policies proposed by TSA in its Privacy Act notices for CAPPS-II, that would limit TSA access to reservation data.

Even long after a flight, and without the need to ask permission from a judge, the TSA or other Federal agencies could use a "national security letter" under the Patriot Act both to force airlines or computerized reservation services to turn over data, and to forbid them from admitting that they have done so. They might have done so already: even if airlines and CRS's deny that they've turned over reservation data, their denials could be government-ordered lies.

Hatfield is new in his position, but if he didn't know it already, he's quickly learning what it takes to sell CAPPS-II: big lies.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 29 March 2004, 13:59 ( 1:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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