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[infowar.de] Zweifel am Ende von CAPPS II
(hier auch mit weiteren links im Text, RB)
CAPPS-II to be renamed and/or merged into traveller registration program
Thursday, 15 July 2004
USA Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has confirmed in an
interview with USA Today that the CAPPS-II airline passenger profiling
and monitoring system will be renamed and/or merged into a system of
(pseudo-voluntary) registration of travellers.
USA Today headlined the story, "Plan to collect flier data canceled",
which would be very good news if true. But the story itself makes clear
that CAPPS-II, in a new guise, is far from dead:
Ridge said a new program with a different name might be developed
to take the place of CAPPS II. But if enough people volunteer to provide
personal information through a new "registered traveler" program, that
alone could replace CAPPS II.
This is exactly the two-part strategy for salvaging the essential
surveillance and profiling functionality of CAPPS-II, in the face of
overwhelming public and Congressional opposition, that I've inferred
>from previous DHS/TSA actions. The remarkable thing is that Ridge has
made it explicit.
The name change is purely a ruse. Congress has forbidden any spending on
CAPPS-II unless and until it can meet specified standards, as certified
by the GAO. The GAO has said it isn't yet even close to meeting those
criteria, and the TSA is probably realizing that it never will. But
since the legislation is worded in terms of the program name,
"CAPPS-II", rather than a description of its function, DHS/TSA can
completely escape the current Congressional oversight, at the stroke of
a pen, by renaming the program or including it in a program with another
name. Presumably they will also respond to any continued criticism of
CAPPS-II by saying, "But we aren't doing it any more", even if they are
doing essentially "it" in another name. That's also what they are likely
to tell the courts that are considering challenges to CAPPS-II .
The question is whether Congress and the public will let them get away
with these ruses. Privacy advocates should call a spade a spade, and
demand that any new computerized airline passenger screening system be
conducted in the name of CAPPS-II and subjected to the tests that
Congress has already enacted for CAPPS-II. And Congress should make sure
that the next "homeland security" or aviation related legislation
clarifies that the current limits on CAPPS-II apply to any system for
screening airline passengers, by any name or as part of any other
In their current conception, the successors to CAPPS-II will be
substantially broader. In order to register , would-be travellers will
have to "consent" to give fingerprints, iris scans, addresses of
everywhere they've lived for the last five years, etc. -- none of which
were to have been required for CAPPS-II, and which will be subject to
even less protection than data used for CAPPS-II.
The DHS and TSA still haven't said anything about most of the key
privacy issues for the traveller registration program, as was pointed
out in EPIC's comments on the "registered traveler" Privacy Act notice.
Let's hope that with this scheme assuming functions formally allocated
to CAPPS-II, more of these questions are asked, and answers demanded by
Instead of a profiling system limited to air travellers, the DHS will
use a multi-purpose profiling and screening system for which the first
contract has just been awarded. It will probably be used first for
applicants for the new Transportation Worker Identification Credential
(TWIC), rather than registered travellers. But once the government has
identifying information on registered travellers (or any other group of
people), and a screening "black box", it's almost inevitable (and would
violate no current law, at least in the USA) for travel registrations
eventually to be fed through the "terrorist screening" system.
And the kicker is that this is "voluntary". Anyone who objects to having
to register will be told that they have a choice -- if you don't want to
register, you can always go through the second class unregistered
screening line instead. Anyone who objects to the second-class treatment
of unregistered travellers will be told that they have a choice: they
can always register instead. Isn't the TSA generous: they will give us
two different choices of how we want to surrender our civil liberties.
By controlling the allocation of screening staff between the
"registered" and "unregistered" lanes, the TSA can impose exactly as
much or as little delay and inconvenience as is necessary to induce
travellers to register, and can implement the differential treatement of
registered and unregistered travellers as gradually as it wishes. As
first, I expect registered travellers will be given preferentially
faster screening than the current default. As more people register, the
registered screening lines will gradually slow down to the speed of the
current default lines. Once registration becomes the "norm", increasing
delays will begin to be imposed on the those who remain unregistered.
The replacement or repackaging of CAPPS-II as part of a larger and more
intrusive system of general-purpose "screening" that treats everyone --
not just air travellers -- as suspected terrorists, and a traveller
registration system that gives the government and travel companies even
more detailed infomation, under fewer restrictions, than would have been
required for CAPPS-II, is scarecely the "death of CAPPS-II". Nor is it
anything close to the end of the threat CAPPS-II and its successors pose
to our freedom to travel.
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