Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Storm Track Appeasement: US Government Halts Anti-Terror Screening Program

Thanks to the efforts of privacy advocate groups, the government has halted the Secure Fight anti-terrorism screening program.

Secure Flight, the U.S. government's stalled program to screen domestic air passengers against terrorism watch lists, violated federal law during a crucial test phase, according to a report to be issued today by the Homeland Security Department's privacy office. The agency found that by gathering passenger data from commercial brokers in 2004 without notifying the passengers, the program violated a 1974 Privacy Act requirement that the public be made aware of any changes in a federal program that affects the privacy of U.S. citizens.

"As ultimately implemented, the commercial data test conducted in connection with the Secure Flight program testing did not match [the Transportation Security Administration's] public announcements," the report states.

The finding marks the first time that the Homeland Security Department has acknowledged that the problem-plagued Secure Flight program has violated the law. It comes at a time when a separate program to screen international passengers is under attack for officials' failure to disclose until recently that they were creating passenger profiles that would be stored for 40 years.

The report on Secure Flight says that "the disparity between what TSA proposed to do and what it actually did in the testing program resulted in significant privacy concerns being raised. . . . Privacy missteps such as these undercut an agency's effort to implement a program effectively, even one that promises to improve security."


Congress has halted Secure Flight, except for testing, until it can allay privacy and security concerns.

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