Chertoff Calls for Airline Procedures That Would Further Violate Privacy; ACLU Says Less Intrusive, More Effective Security Procedures Needed

August 10, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has called for airline passengers to provide more personal information to the government to gain privacy, according to today’s edition of USA Today. The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the move and pointed to the consistently poor reviews of the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight passenger screening system by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.

In his meeting with reporters and editors at USA Today, Chertoff said: “The average American gives information up to get a CVS (drugstore discount) card that is far more in-depth than TSA’s going to be looking at? But I actually make that case that giving up a little bit more information protects privacy.”

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

“Secretary Chertoff is saying that Americans must give up more of their most private information to protect their privacy. However, privacy in his view is limited to avoiding pat down searches and the like – and omits the protection of our most private information. His comparison of CVS to airline security is way off the mark – retail stores cannot stop Americans from traveling, or falsely identify them as suspected terrorists. And, recent scandals show that our most private information stored in central databases is subject to security breaches and theft by hackers.

“Name-based security systems like Secure Flight do not work. Even with the additional personal information the Transportation Security Administration has said it would like to collect, TSA admits the Secure Flight program would still lead to over 5.1 million passengers wrongly flagged per year as security risks, and exposed to the intrusive security measures like pat downs that Chertoff says would be avoided. Worse still, the system is based on the premise that terrorists will be on government watchlists. But watchlists can be circumvented if terrorists obtain ‘clean’ identities or are not listed.

“It remains unclear – even by the TSA’s own admission – that the collection of massive amounts of personal information will make Secure Flight effective. Instead of pushing for an expansion of Secure Flight – which has yet to receive a passing grade – the government should be focusing its efforts on proven security measures, like following leads and effectively screening passengers and cargo.”

For an explanation of Secure Flight and the ACLU’s concerns, go to:

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