[IP] Government Is 'Reshaping' Airport Screening System

David Farber dave at farber.net
Fri Jul 16 06:07:22 PDT 2004

Government Is 'Reshaping' Airport Screening System

Published: July 16, 2004

ASHINGTON, July 15 - The government is backing away from a plan to use
commercial databases in its computerized system for determining which
airline passengers might pose a security risk.

But it is pressing ahead with a new computer system that will rely on
government databases.

The goal is a better screening tool that will select about 4 percent of
all passengers for more intense scrutiny, compared with the 14 percent
identified by the current system. Some travelers are now chosen for
more intensive "secondary screenings" at random, and others are chosen
for reasons that are supposed to be secret but are thought to include
booking at the last minute, buying one-way tickets and paying with

The acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration,
David M. Stone, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on
Tuesday that his agency was "reshaping and repackaging" the screening
system, which was originally supposed to use commercial databases that
sweep in data on credit, home ownership, telephone records and car
registration as a way to evaluate whether the name given by a passenger
was real. That plan, called Capps 2, for Computer Assisted Passenger
Pre-Screening, had been criticized as an invasion of passengers'

On Wednesday the secretary of homeland security, Tom Ridge, was quoted
in USA Today as saying that Capps 2 was dead. But a spokesman for his
agency, Brian Roehrkasse, said Thursday that "the administration
continues to move forward on an automated aviation passenger
prescreening system to replace the existing antiquated airline system,
to better manage risk and be more efficient."

Mr. Roehrkasse said he did not know when the new system would be put
into place. Much of it is still under development, he said.

The law that established the Transportation Security Administration,
passed by Congress in November 2001, two months after the terrorist
attacks, included a variety of requirements for the new agency. One was
to screen all baggage. That destroyed the rationale of the original
Capps system, which was established in 1998 in response to the
possibility of a bomb in a checked suitcase like the one that destroyed
Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Another requirement was to
develop a better screening tool to pick which passengers, with their
carry-on luggage, should be scrutinized.

The new system is supposed to rely on government databases.

The government already has a so-called no-fly list, which is actually a
list of people whom the airlines are not supposed to carry, and a
larger list of people who are supposed to be put through secondary
screening if they seek to fly. According to an administration official
who asked not to be identified, those two lists have fewer than 10,000
names but the new computer system would integrate a list of names that
is "dramatically larger." The official would not be more specific about
either number.

In addition, various government agencies maintain lists of names now,
including the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. A federal agency established last
December within the Department of Homeland Security, the Terrorist
Screening Center, is supposed to integrate these lists. The agencies
use a variety of bases for identifying individuals as suspect.

The Capps 2 system was supposed to be based on passengers' names,
addresses and phone numbers; the original proposal for the system would
have required passengers to submit their dates of birth as well. The
new system might still do that, according to the official.

Laura W. Murphy, the director of the Washington office of the American
Civil Liberties Union, one of the organizations that had been critical
of Capps 2, said a system that relied solely on government databases
could still be unfair, because the databases themselves would have
errors. But she said she was glad that the government was no longer
proposing to run every name through commercial databases.

"We don't want to turn into a society where everybody is treated like a
suspect and everybody is investigated," Ms. Murphy said.

The recently released Senate Intelligence Committee report and the
hearings held by the Sept. 11 commission have demonstrated shortcomings
in intelligence, Ms. Murphy said, and no-fly lists based on flawed
intelligence would mean a security system "built on what right now
appears to be a house of cards." The government should improve aviation
security by concentrating on simpler challenges, like access control at
airports, she said.

You are subscribed as eugen at leitl.org
To manage your subscription, go to

Archives at: http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/

----- End forwarded message -----
Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a>
ICBM: 48.07078, 11.61144            http://www.leitl.org
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE
http://moleculardevices.org         http://nanomachines.net

[demime 1.01d removed an attachment of type application/pgp-signature]

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list