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Old October 22nd, 2008, 01:26 PM   #1
hkskyline
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MISC | Screening Your Flight - Passenger Data & Airport Security

US to improve air passenger screening in 2009
22 October 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) - A long-delayed U.S. government program designed to more accurately prescreen the names of airline passengers against terror watch lists is expected to launch early next year.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was expected to announce the final rule for the program, called Secure Flight, which would validate air travelers' information so there's less chance a person could be mistaken for someone else on a watch list. The program has been delayed several times over privacy concerns.

Misidentification of passengers has been one of the biggest inconveniences in post-Sept. 11 air travel, and widely known for putting Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy, a few infants and thousands of innocent U.S. residents through extensive searching and questioning before they were allowed to fly.

Currently, passenger prescreening for domestic flights is handled by the individual airlines. But those airlines do not always tap into the most up-to-date watch lists, which contain names of people whom intelligence agencies determined should not be on planes. Under the new program, the airlines will be responsible for collecting a passenger's full name, gender and birth date, as opposed to the current practice of only collecting the passenger's name.

"This should eliminate the vast majority of misidentifications and significantly reduce instances where travelers believe, or are even told by airlines, that they are on a watch list," said a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the final rule had not been announced.

The early sharing of passenger information was designed to give U.S. authorities more time to identify and remove from flights suspected terrorists like Richard Reid, who attempted to light a shoe bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight in December 2001.

This is the third version of the air passenger prescreening program that became a key part of aviation security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Federal Aviation Administration oversaw the first iteration, which began in 1998, according to 9/11 Commission research. This program required air carriers to use a computer-assisted passenger prescreening program to single out passengers in need of additional screening.

The FAA rules required that the airline only screen that passenger's checked baggage for explosives and not the passenger or the passenger's carryon bags. Later versions of this program became controversial because of data mining elements that had aroused privacy concerns. Secure Flight does not include data mining, which is the computerized searching of large databanks of information for clues to the identities of terrorists or criminals.

Congress had barred the Bush administration from launching Secure Flight after it was learned that it acquired live data for testing rather than using made-up data. But since then, the program has been tested and reviewed and includes a privacy impact statement.

The Transportation Security Administration has a redress program for passengers who believe they were misidentified with names on the terror watch list. As of Sept. 30, there were more than 43,500 requests for redress, according to the TSA. Passenger redress will continue to be available after Secure Flight is implemented.
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Old October 24th, 2008, 07:21 PM   #2
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Government to Take Over Airline Passenger Vetting
23 October 2008
The Washington Post

The Department of Homeland Security will take over responsibility for checking airline passenger names against government watch lists beginning in January, and will require travelers for the first time to provide their full name, birth date and gender as a condition for boarding commercial flights, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Security officials say the additional personal information -- which will be given to airlines to forward to the federal agency in charge -- will dramatically cut down on cases of mistaken identity, in which people with names similar to those on watch lists are wrongly barred or delayed from flights.

The changes, to be phased in next year, will apply to 2 million daily passengers aboard all domestic flights and international flights to, from or over the United States. By transferring the screening duty from the airlines to the federal government, the Secure Flight program marks the Bush administration's long-delayed fulfillment of a top aviation security priority after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief Kip Hawley said yesterday that, except in rare situations, passengers who do not provide the additional information will not be given boarding passes.

"If you don't provide the data, then you are going to put yourself in a position where you are probably going to be a selectee," subject at a minimum to greater future security scrutiny, Chertoff said in remarks announcing the program at Reagan National Airport.

"We know that threats to our aviation system persist," he said. Secure Flight "will increase security and efficiency, it'll protect passengers' privacy, and it will reduce the number of false-positive misidentifications."

Over the years, watch-list mismatches have frustrated countless passengers whose names are similar to those on the agency's no-fly list, or on a second list of "selectees" identified for added questioning. The passengers have included infants and toddlers; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.); and the wife of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Catherine, whose name is similar to Cat Stevens, the former name of the watch-listed Britain-based pop singer who converted to Islam.

Details about why certain passengers are stopped are normally not shared with travelers, who often endure long delays and pointed questions. DHS has received more than 43,500 requests for redress since February 2007 and has completed 24,000 of them, with the rest under review or awaiting more documentation, TSA spokesman Christopher White said.

But the number of people who actually match the names on the watch lists is minuscule, officials acknowledged. On average, DHS screeners discover a person who is actually on the no-fly list about once a month, usually overseas, and actual selectees daily, Hawley said.

To bolster their case for the new program, U.S. officials for their first time disclosed that the no-fly list includes fewer than 2,500 individuals and the selectee list fewer than 16,000. Ten percent of those named on the no-fly list and fewer than half on the selectee list are U.S. citizens, Chertoff said.

By taking over watch-list vetting from industry, the officials said, the government will consistently apply the most up-to-date list information and more sophisticated computer programs to catch name variations, and will avoid the risk of giving sensitive data to foreign air carriers, Chertoff said.

They estimated that adding identity details will allow "99 percent" of travelers to avoid delays -- all but 2,000 passengers a day.

Many details of Secure Flight -- which cost $200 million and five years to develop, and will cost an estimated $80 million a year to operate -- remain unclear. Final regulations will be published by early next month, officials said, and after that, airlines can begin requesting information after 60 days and must be ready to send data to the federal government after 270 days.

The TSA will phase in domestic airlines first and foreign flights and over-flights starting later next year. The officials offered no deadline for completing the process.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and subcommittee head Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) said they are disappointed and troubled that full implementation may not occur for several months or years.

Air carriers, particularly foreign airlines, say the changes duplicate other security measures. They complain that retooling data systems will cost some of them millions of dollars and take several months.

Steve Lott, spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, which represents most foreign airlines, said the group's 230 members "are disappointed that the TSA did not accept many of our detailed recommendations on how to improve the Secure Flight program. . . . We look forward to working with the next Congress and Administration to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs."

Privacy experts welcomed changes to Secure Flight but said problems remain. Two earlier versions were scrapped after civil libertarians warned that the vast new databases planned would violate Americans' privacy.

U.S. officials said Secure Flight will not tap commercial data, conduct "data-mining" or generate risk scores on passengers. Information on most passengers will be destroyed after seven days.

But the American Civil Liberties Union said the government still lacks adequate redress procedures for people mistakenly matched to secret watch lists based on the government's master terrorist database, which identifies about 400,000 individuals and includes roughly 1 million name records and aliases.

DHS's redress program "has proven to be a black hole that sucks in documents and information from those misidentified but never emits a final resolution to help affected travelers get off the lists and stay off the lists," said Caroline Fredrickson, head of the ACLU Washington legislative office.

"Until we fix the watch lists, reengineering Secure Flight is not enough," said Timothy Sparapani, ACLU senior legislative counsel.
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Old July 2nd, 2009, 06:32 PM   #3
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The Middle Seat: Is Tougher Airport Screening Going Too Far?
2 July 2009
The Wall Street Journal

The Transportation Security Administration has moved beyond just checking for weapons and explosives. It's now training airport screeners to spot anything suspicious, and then honoring them when searches lead to arrests for crimes like drug possession and credit-card fraud.

But two court cases in the past month question whether TSA searches -- which the agency says have broadened to allow screeners to use more judgment -- have been going too far.

A federal judge in June threw out seizure of three fake passports from a traveler, saying that TSA screeners violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress authorizes TSA to search travelers for weapons and explosives; beyond that, the agency is overstepping its bounds, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley said.

"The extent of the search went beyond the permissible purpose of detecting weapons and explosives and was instead motivated by a desire to uncover contraband evidencing ordinary criminal wrongdoing," Judge Marbley wrote.

In the second case, Steven Bierfeldt, treasurer for the Campaign for Liberty, a political organization launched from Ron Paul's presidential run, was detained at the St. Louis airport because he was carrying $4,700 in a lock box from the sale of tickets, T-shirts, bumper stickers and campaign paraphernalia. TSA screeners quizzed him about the cash, his employment and the purpose of his trip to St. Louis, then summoned local police and threatened him with arrest because he responded to their questions with a question of his own: What were his rights and could TSA legally require him to answer?

Mr. Bierfeldt recorded the encounter on his iPhone and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in June against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, claiming in part that Mr. Bierfeldt's experience at the airport was not an anomaly.

"Whether as a matter of formal policy or widespread practice, TSA now operates on the belief that airport security screening provides a convenient opportunity to fish for evidence of criminal conduct far removed from the agency's mandate of ensuring flight safety," the ACLU said in its suit.

TSA said in a statement on the Bierfeldt incident that travelers are required to cooperate with screeners, and while it is legal to carry any amount of money when flying domestically, the agency believes cooperation includes answering questions about property. As a result of the recording, however, TSA determined that "the tone and language used by the TSA employee was inappropriate and proper disciplinary action was taken."

The cases will likely inflame TSA critics and frequent travelers who believe screeners take a heavy-handed approach and worsen the hassle of getting through airports with layers of rules and sometimes inconsistent policies between different cities.

"TSA agents don't get to play cops," says Ben Wizner, an attorney who filed Mr. Bierfeldt's suit. The ACLU has heard an increasing number of reports of TSA agents involved in what he called "mission creep," he says.

TSA spokesman Greg Soule says airport screeners are trained to "look for threats to aviation security" and discrepancies in a passenger's identity. TSA says verifying someone's identity, or exposing false identity, is a security issue so that names can be checked against terrorism watch lists. Large amounts of cash can be evidence of criminal activity, Mr. Soule says, and so screeners look at the "quantity, packaging, circumstances of discovery or method by which the cash is carried."

Questioning travelers is part of TSA's standard procedures, and the agency gives its employees discretion. "TSA security officers are trained to ask questions and assess passenger reactions," Mr. Soule says. "TSA security officers may use their professional judgment and experience to determine what questions to ask passengers during screening."

No one questions arrests made after TSA runs into evidence of drugs or other crimes during weapons searches. A bulge in baggy pants can be investigated, for example, because it might be an explosive. If it turns out to be cocaine, TSA is expected to report it to police or Drug Enforcement Agency officials.

But once TSA has determined that someone doesn't have weapons or explosives, agents sometimes keep searching -- leading some legal experts to wonder whether questioning people about how much cash they're carrying, the number of credit cards they have and even prescription drugs in their bags stretches the intent of airport security law.

Congress charged TSA with protecting passengers and property on an aircraft "against an act of criminal violence or aircraft piracy" and prohibited individuals from carrying a "weapon, explosive or incendiary" onto an airplane. Without search warrants, courts have held that airport security checks are considered reasonable if the search is "no more extensive or intensive than necessary" to detect weapons or explosives.

In testimony to Congress last month, Gale D. Rossides, acting TSA administrator, said the agency had moved past simply trying to intercept guns, knives and razor blades to "physical and behavioral screening to counter constantly changing threats."

Every screener has completed a 16-hour retraining that "provides the latest information on intelligence, explosives detection and human factors affecting security," she said. "We have revised our checkpoint Standard Operating Procedures to enable officers to use their judgment appropriately in achieving sensible security results."

In the fake passport case, a man named Fode Amadou Fofana used a valid driver's license with his real name at a Columbus, Ohio, TSA checkpoint. Because he had purchased his ticket for a flight at the airport just before departure, he was flagged for secondary screening. He didn't set off metal detectors and TSA's X-ray equipment didn't see anything suspicious, according to court testimony. The bags were swabbed for explosive residue and did not trigger any alarms. TSA agents opened the bags and searched inside because he was selected for extra screening.

According to the judge's ruling, the TSA agent involved testified that she had been instructed to search for suspicious items beyond weapons and explosives and to "be alert for anything that might be unlawful for him to possess, such as credit cards belonging to other people, illegal drugs or counterfeit money."

The agent found envelopes with cash, which she considered suspicious. Three other envelopes had something more rigid than dollar bills. She testified she didn't believe there were weapons inside, but opened them looking for "contraband" and found three fake passports.

Judge Marbley said the TSA had no authority to open the envelopes. In his ruling, he said prior cases clearly established that airport security searches should be aimed only at detecting weapons or explosives.

"A checkpoint search tainted by 'general law enforcement objectives' such as uncovering contraband evidencing general criminal activity is improper," the judge wrote.The U.S. Attorney's Office in Columbus has filed notice that it will appeal the judge's order.

Mr. Bierfeldt's suit, filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, seeks to bar TSA from "conducting suspicion-less pre-flight searches of passengers or their belongings for items other than weapons or explosives."

Mr. Bierfeldt, who was released by TSA after an official in plain clothes saw political materials in his bag and asked if the cash was campaign contributions, said he just wants to save others from harassment by TSA. "It's the principle of the matter," he said. "I didn't break any laws and was no threat."
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 10:31 AM   #4
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I don't get why the Americans don't protest at the ridiculous amount of checking at the airports? If it were France, I'm sure half the cars in Paris would be burned by now.
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 02:49 PM   #5
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The politicians in democratic countries are afraid of losing the next election, if a terrorist attack happens during their term in office & therefore they pushing very hard for those rules.
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Old July 3rd, 2009, 06:26 PM   #6
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Part of it is a confidence measure to reassure passengers they will be safe in the air.
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Old July 8th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #7
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Report: Denver airport gets least gripes about airport screeners; Las Vegas has most
6 July 2009

DENVER (AP) - Federal statistics show Denver's airport gets the fewest passenger complaints about security screeners among the nation's 10 busiest airports, while Las Vegas gets the most.

The Denver Post reported Monday that travelers filed just five complaints about screeners at Denver International over a 45-month period from 2003 to 2006. McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas had the most with 80.

The Transportation Security Administration released the totals at the newspaper's request.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had 76 complaints, the second-highest. Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport had 16, the second-lowest.

TSA says about 10 percent of the complaints nationwide are related to the way screeners treated passengers.

TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon says the agency screens about 2 million passengers a day.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 05:39 AM   #8
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EU wants air passenger data for terrorism probes

BRUSSELS, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The European Commission proposed on Wednesday that airlines provide EU governments with data about travellers flying in and out of the bloc, to help their efforts to combat terrorism and organised crime.

EU airlines already share passenger data with law enforcement officials in the United States, Canada and Australia, and the EU executive argued that pooling information in the 27-member bloc would make its use more efficient.

The proposal could run into opposition in the European Parliament, which has in the past opposed data-sharing agreements between the bloc and the United States on privacy grounds.

But the Commission said strong privacy clauses were included in the new rules.

"The proposal aims to establish common rules among EU member states on how to use passenger data ... in order to prevent and prosecute terrorism, while also guaranteeing high level of privacy protection," EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.

Information stored by airlines in their reservation systems could include name, departure and arrival information, credit card numbers and address.

Under the Commission's proposal, no data leading to information about racial or ethnic origin, political opinions and religious beliefs could be shared.

Malmstrom said several EU governments already use passenger data in their law enforcement, citing Belgian data showing more than 90 percent of illegal drugs seized in 2009 resulted from investigations that relied in part on such information.

U.S. officials say information from airlines has been crucial in many counter-terrorism probes. It helped identify a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who tried but failed to detonate a car bomb in New York's Times Square last year.

Investigators can also use the data to uncover travel patterns that can expose organised crime such as child-trafficking.
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