Donna Wentworth @ EFF: Deep Links
It's Official: TSA Lied

Two government reports confirm what EFF and other privacy advocacy organizations have long known: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lied about its role in using airline passengers as guinea pigs for testing "Secure Flight" - the latest version of a fundamentally flawed passenger-profiling system for screening terrorists. And not only did TSA lie, it lied repeatedly, to everyone.

A DHS report [PDF], released this past Friday, reveals that TSA misled individuals, the press, and Congress in 2003 and 2004. A GAO report [PDF], released Monday, also shows that Secure Flight has failed to meet 9 out 10 conditions the GAO set for giving the program the go-ahead. These conditions include providing adequate protection for passengers' privacy and ensuring the accuracy of the data it would use to classify people as terrorist risks.

Passenger records contain detailed personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, travel itinerary -- even your credit card number. Yet the DHS report says TSA shared passenger information with outside contractors while neglecting to "inquire whether the data used by the vendors had been returned or destroyed."

"This is worse than ChoicePoint," says EFF Senior Privacy Attorney Lee Tien. "It reflects an attitude toward the privacy of Americans that falls well below what people are up in arms about in the commercial data industry. These people have a public trust and they're abusing it."

For additional information, see Bruce Schneier's GAO's Report on Secure Flight; for background, see TSA and CAPPS II -- Anatomy of a Cover Up.

As Donna says, this just confirms things that we all sort of figured were going on, but this is quite an official acknowledgment. I wonder if there will be any followup action on the part of the US government.

The US doesn't have a monopoly on this stuff of course. I've been fighting very hard for privacy in Japan. What we ended up with was a privacy bill that allows the government to strictly enforce privacy rules for businesses, but leaves the government quite free and exempt from similar oversight, focusing more on the "ethics of civil servants." Of course there is also a carve out for "the media" so they don't scream about it too much. Unfortunately, in the case of the Japanese privacy bill, "the media" includes only TV and newspapers and not magazines and of course not bloggers. Although I agree that privacy violations by businesses is a problem and a threat, I'm still much more concerned about abuse by governments, particularly when there isn't a good oversight process. The US is lucky it has the GAO.

2 Comments

While the TSA did lie, they didn't do it by themselves. In your "long known" link I notice JetBlue was bending over backwards to give away data.

I remember a radio interview with the founder/CEO (soon after 9/11) in which he suggested that the government set up a kind of travel clearance ID with various levels of clearance to determine what's allowed. He even suggested that he not get top clearance originally because he was not born on US soil. I suppose that's his idea of noblesse oblige.

When the CEO of an airline goes on the radio and suggests that the government hand out internal travel passports that discriminate automatically against foreign-born Americans, I'm just glad something worse didn't happen.

Please consider that before buying tickets on JetBlue in the future.

I really do not have a clue as to what they think they are doing. Airplanes that have secure cockpits cannot be turned into missles. Terrorists are going to go after easier targets. All of these effort is a waste of time that will not make anyone more secure.

The first attack on the World Trade Center used a truck packed with explosives. I would imagine that the terrorists planning their next attack on the US are aware of this. More aware than the US government is!

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Joi Ito points to Donna Wentworth @ EFF: Deep Links It's Official: TSA Lied: Two government reports confirm what EFF... Read More

TSA lied about Secure Flight from Vidar Hokstad's random musings
April 2, 2005 7:52 PM

Joi Ito has a very disturbing entry about the US Transportation Security Administration, and their passenger profiling efforts: It's Official: TSA Lied What disturbs me the most about these programs is the secrecy and the fact that there's been no... Read More

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