ACLU Says TSA Action on Secure Flight Shows Blatant Disregard for Privacy, Agency Violated Congressional Limits and Its Own Public Positions

June 20, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration is set to disclose this week in the Federal Register that the agency has collected and stored personal data about airline travelers, despite a Congressional ban and promises from the agency that it would not do so. The American Civil Liberties Union today said the secret collection of personal data from private companies shows a complete disregard for the privacy of Americans, and said it shows that the Secure Flight program should not be launched because testing of commercial data using a more limited amount of data failed.

The agency is set to issue a revised “Privacy Impact Assessment” this week, as required under the Privacy Act of 1974. The statement in the Federal Register is expected to be retroactive; it will discuss how TSA failed to comply with its own promises to the public to safeguard actual passengers’ records used to test Secure Flight.

The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel:

“In a blatant disregard for restrictions set by Congress, and in violation of its own stated positions, TSA rounded up enormous amounts of personal data held in secret files compiled by private companies concerning unsuspecting travelers. The agency has been trying to calm public concerns about the privacy implications of this invasive program: meanwhile, they’ve been secretly gathering personal information, in violation of Congressional restrictions and behind our backs. Private data brokers’ records are notoriously riddled with errors.”

“Identity theft is rampant, and the failure of TSA’s commercial data testing to prove the program’s worth, which caused TSA to reach out for an extensive amount of data, demonstrates that Secure Flight cannot live up to its billing as a means to catch terrorists. This program doesn’t deserve the public’s support. Identity thieves can easily evade its dragnet. And, TSA has once again forfeited the public’s trust by failing to safeguard real passengers’ most sensitive information. The government should be the first line of defense in protecting our privacy – not the first to threaten it. It’s clear that TSA is not capable of rolling out this controversial and invasive program.”

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