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Report Slams Airline Passenger Screening Program

Remember CAPPS II? A new report is slamming the program.

CAPPS II would divide passengers into three categories: green, screened normally at the gate; yellow, given extra screening; and red. TSA officials say passengers given a red rating will be forbidden to fly and will be questioned at the airport by law enforcement officials.

...CAPPS II is supposed to compare personal data about passengers collected by airlines -- name, address, date of birth and telephone number -- with commercial databases held by marketing companies and others.

Mathematical formulas called algorithms would be used to combine and cross check all kinds of information about every passenger -- how long they have lived at their address, for example -- but also intelligence held by U.S. agencies about individuals and groups. The program then comes up with a threat score -- a bit like a credit rating -- for each traveler.

The program has been blasted by civil libertarians:

Critics contended that it would violate travelers' privacy and Fourth Amendment rights; brand some citizens terror suspects on the basis of potentially inaccurate data that they cannot challenge; and was being expanded for use against all kind of law-breakers and suspects, not just terrorists.

The report says the program flunked a series of tests:

Concerned lawmakers set a series of eight tests -- enacted into law in several funding bills -- that the system had to pass before money could be released to fund its implementation. The tests included establishing a process for correcting erroneous information and restoring the right of wrongly labeled innocent passengers to travel by air; assuring the security of the system from hackers and internal abuse; addressing privacy concerns; and -- crucially -- providing evidence that the screening will actually turn up potential terrorists.

The summary says the Transportation Security Administration failed on all these counts.....

Update: The Chicago Tribune has more on the report.

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