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Homeland Security Demands Passenger Names

WASHINGTON - Even though the move was expected, civil libertarians are protesting a directive by the government ordering airlines to turn over personal information on their customers that can include credit card numbers and addresses and even indicate a traveler's religion.
Always Watching Over You
Always Watching Over You
Under the system, called "Secure Flight," the Transportation Security Administration will screen for possible terrorists by comparing passenger data with names on two government lists. The "no-fly" list comprises known or suspected terrorists, while a "watch" list names people who should face tighter scrutiny before boarding planes.

The TSA order issued Friday gives 72 airlines until Nov. 23 to turn over computerized data for passengers who traveled on domestic flights during June.

The data known as passenger name records, or PNR can include credit card numbers, travel itineraries, addresses, telephone numbers and meal requests. The latter can indicate a passenger's religion or ethnicity.

Barry Steinhardt, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, said a major problem is the lists include the names of many people who are not security risks.

Among those subjected to extra scrutiny in recent months was Sen. Edward M. Kennedy), D-Mass. The singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, now Yusuf Islam, is trying to get off the no-fly list after he was removed from a London-to-Washington flight because the list said he had links to terrorists.

The lists are "a hodgepodge of information, accurate and inaccurate," Steinhardt said. "They're the basement of the program, and the floor is rotten."

The government has sought to improve its process for checking passengers since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers exposed holes. The government's first attempt was scuttled because of fears the government would have access to too much personal information.

The TSA says Secure Flight differs from the previous plan because it does not compare personal data with commercial databases. The agency said, however, it will test the passenger information "on a very limited basis" against commercial data.

Under the current system, the government shares parts of the watchlists with airlines, which are responsible for making sure suspected terrorists don't get on planes. But the airlines don't have access to everyone who's considered a threat to aviation because some of the names of known or suspected terrorists are classified.

People within the commercial aviation industry say there are more than 100,000 names on the lists.

Under Secure Flight, the government would take responsibility for checking passengers. That was among recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.

An airline industry representative said the carriers support the government's goals but remain wary of privacy concerns.

"U.S. airlines have long-standing concerns that center on privacy and operational issues," said James May, president of the Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines. "We hope many of the issues will be successfully addressed during the test phase of Secure Flight."

About 500 people formally commented on the Secure Flight plan this fall. Almost all opposed it, saying it would allow the government to monitor where people go and deprive them of the right to travel without telling them why.

In issuing the order, the TSA didn't resolve another key concern for privacy advocates: redress. There still is no formal way for people mistakenly identified as terrorists, or who have the same name as a suspected terrorist, to get off the lists.

"They've done absolutely nothing to tell us what they really intend on doing," said Bill Scannell, a privacy advocate who manages the www.unsecureflight.com Web site. "Their attitude seems to be, `Trust us.'"

The TSA said it would set up a passenger advocate's office with clear policies and procedures.


On the Net:

Transportation Security Administration:  http://www.tsa.gov

homepage: homepage: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=514&e=6&u=/ap/20041113/ap_on_re_us/passenger_screening

now this is something to boycott. 13.Nov.2004 11:57

no fly

when you take off in an airplane(just the takeoff) you are using as much fossil fuel as the average American uses driving around for a year. And you are getting fucked around by "Homeland Security". And you are contributing the the exploding growth of airports in rural areas, which is decimating the world.

So stop flying. Please. It is not necessary, and is one of the main causes for all this madness. Think local. Be local. Stop buying into their silly games.

... 13.Nov.2004 12:06

this thing here

>People within the commercial aviation industry say there are more than 100,000 names on the lists.<

what exactly did any of these people have to supposedly do in order to be put on one of these lists? what little, unnoticed thing was it that said that this person, out of 100's of million's, was to be put on a data file in a hard drive? how could they know? do they have 100,000 agents out there watching? 100,000 people is an awful lot of people to be suspicious about. and if the security apparatus of this country can be suspicious about 100,000 people, there's not a goddamn thing stopping them from being suspicious about, or having the capability to monitor, 100 million. in other words, they can't narrow down the list to 100,000 if they didn't start with one hell of a lot more.

you see, EVERYONE is then on the list until we get taken off by some kind of inconceivable process of sorting. but this goes completely against the notion of innocent until proven guilty. this is guilty until sorted into the innocent pile....

I took a flight in June... 13.Nov.2004 12:28

Scotty B.

First of all, "No Fly" - flying *is* sometimes needed, just like driving a car is sometimes needed. It all depends on where you live and where you need to go. The thing that's solidified the grip of oil companies over transportation is that fossil-fuel transportation is almost impossible to completely boycott. I hate it when leftists and environmentalists take a holier-than-thou attitude and expect everyone to be able to live sustainably, when it *isn't possible* in our current society. In order to really save the Earth, we need to push for the usage of cleaner, sustainable sources of energy, not just be one out of 10,000 people of so that's boycotting.

That being said, I took a flight in June. And I marked "Vegetarian" on my meal plan. And I'm involved with Green Party leadership. Guess I better get ready for no-fly :P.

do the math folks 13.Nov.2004 12:57

Mrs. Higgins

"when you take off in an airplane(just the takeoff) you are using as much fossil fuel as the average American uses driving around for a year"

When an airplane takes off, it may use as many gallons as "you" use in a year of driving, but there may be hundreds of passengers. If you divide the fuel usage of an airplane by a couple hundred, you can be sure it doesn't burn as much in taking off as "you" use on an annual basis.

Flying is very inefficient, but come on. I'm with Scotty.

If you'd like to make a difference, yes, cut down on consumption while accepting that "we" are addicted to convenience. "We" will need a shift to alternative fuels and greater fuel efficiency, or "we" will likely burn through oil as fast as we can until it's 5 dollars a gallon.

Become involved in the creation of a people's utility district. With one of those, it should be a bit easier to go green.

No Problem 13.Nov.2004 14:17


Here's my photo.

flying is more polluting than we think 13.Nov.2004 15:47

White Lilac

Scotty B, Mrs. Higgins,

If you have looked into the energy crisis at all, you should know that you can't solve it on the supply side. You can't just switch to a miracle 'green' fuel and continue as before--the demand side is the key, as Amory Lovins, Art Rosenfeld and many other bright minds have demonstrated. Some demand, as Mrs. Higgins points out, can be reduced by greater efficiences ... but given the appalling lack of regulation in terms of airline fuel efficiency/pollution, it will be an enormous task (harder than CAFE standards in California?) to undertake.

For many passengers, it is less polluting/more efficient to *drive* to your destination than to fly! (And yes, that's with the total pollution of the plane divided equally among its passengers.) See  http://chooseclimate.org/flying/ and  http://www.carboncounter.org/ or any of several other carbon calculators to prove this.

Shame on you, Scotty B, for asserting that it isn't possible to live sustainably in today's society. Of course you can! We certainly don't need the Green Party to agree with the Republicans (Cheney) that conservation is about private virtue but real men need more energy ... and then just argue about what form of energy ("renewable" vs. fossil) to exploit next.

Grow your veggies, trade goods and services with each other, ride your bike, use sustainable farming practices, sustainably harvested wood products and the like ... and try to stop flying or to limit it as much as you can. Try videoconferencing or email or phone ... these technologies use oil too, but are much less polluting and far more efficient.

have some rose-tinted glasses! 13.Nov.2004 23:37

Mrs. Higgins

Lilac, of course we should work towards greater efficiencies. My point is that we look bad when me make clearly inaccurate claims about how much any given activity pollutes. As for efficiency, we could be meaningfully closer to free from fossil fuels if we'd invested our war expenditures on some of these puppies.  http://www.enviromission.com.au/index1.htm

Which is why I ask you to wear some happy glasses. With visionary leadership, we don't need to cut back on power consumption as much as your post would seem to indicate.

BTW, carboncounter is a cool web site. Thanks for the link.