NEW AIRLINE SCREENING SYSTEM
The government will compel airlines and airline reservations companies to hand over all passenger records for scrutiny by U.S. officials, after failing to win cooperation in the program’s testing phase. The order could be issued as soon as next month. Under the system, all travelers passing through a U.S. airport are to be scored with a number and a color that ranks their perceived threat to the aircraft.
Another program that is to be introduced this year that seeks to speed frequent fliers through security lines in exchange for volunteering personal information to the government.
The two new initiatives will augment a system introduced last week to fingerprint and photograph millions of foreign visitors on arrival in the United States.
The TSA said the new computerized system is to provide a more thorough approach to screening passengers. It will collect travelers’ full name, home address and telephone number, date of birth and travel itinerary. The information will be fed into large databases, such as Lexis-Nexis and Acxiom, that tap public records and commercial computer banks, such as shopping mailing lists, to verify that passengers are who they say they are. Once a passenger is identified, the CAPPS 2 system will compare that traveler against wanted criminals and suspected terrorists contained in other databases.
This would appear to be more efficient than the current system, although it still has its critics.
[P]rivacy experts are skeptical. Registered traveler is “going to create two classes of airline travelers,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization that opposes both programs. Registered traveler, he said, “has no security benefits.” Terrorists will learn one way or another how to “game” the system, he said.
To do that, though, requires some system of identifying those who are at risk. And it does make sense to identify frequent travelers who are obviously not a security risk so that attention can be turned to those about whom less is known.