TSA Runs Background Checks of U.S. Passengers before They Arrive at the Airport

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has broadened its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by using government and private databases revealing personal information.

 

The expanded screening, which used to apply only to people entering the United States, now affects domestic travelers, and can include TSA agents reviewing car registrations and employment information.

 

“It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information,” Susan Stellin wrote for The New York Times.

 

TSA claims that the purpose of the expanded passenger data scans is to identify low-risk passengers in order to lighten their security screening at the airport and thus make actual searches more targeted. The agency’s goal is to be able to do that with 25% of all passengers by the end of 2014. Those designated low-risk travelers will get to move through a separate line and be able to keep their shoes and jackets on.

 

Privacy groups expressed concern over the TSA’s widening reach into people’s personal records.

 

Previously, the air travel background checks, called Secure Flight, only involved a comparison of a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth to terrorist watch list data. Now it is clearly much more.

 

“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives, told the Times. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”

 

TSA has not announced details of the program, but it reportedly has already been launched.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman

 

To Learn More:

Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly (by Susan Stellin, New York Times)

As TSA Expands beyond Airports, Concerns are Raised over Warrantless Searches (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

TSA Spreads to Trains, Subways, Bus Terminals and Ferries (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)           

Tennessee First State to Allow TSA Highway Random Search Program (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

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