Terrorists Can be VIPs Too!

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 1:21pm
The federal government has given Americans few reasons to trust it lately. From warrantless wiretapping to the surreptitious establishment of Total Information Awareness, the government is doing everything it can to keep a close eye on its citizens; it's no coincidence that a retinal scan is part of this effort. Today The Washington Post reported on the nascent success of the Clear Card program, a TSA-approved system to get frequent, moneyed travelers to fork over $128, lots of personal data like passport number and citizenship status, their fingerprints and a scan of their retinas to breeze past certain airport security checkpoints. Between government overreaching and government bumbling, giving the government's contractor in this scheme, Verified Identity Pass (VIP, get it?), all of this highly personal data and trusting they won't sell you out to the highest bidder is an act of faith in every sense. To us, this system seems to be more about the Feds enabling VIP to make a quick buck from travelers frustrated with the TSA's feeble, time-consuming attempts at airport passenger screening. Most importantly, such a system as Clear Card does not make travelers any safer from terrorism in the skies. Similar identity-based security systems like Registered Traveler have proven that the more loopholes you put out there to make security easier, the easier it is for terrorists to exploit those holes. Ignoring that the likelihood of another attack via airplanes is very low (see the Madrid train bombings and Bali nightclub suicide attack), like the TSA watchlist, the Clear Card system can't catch unknown terrorists. A terrorist organization isn't going to send a known terrorist, whose name is already on the TSA watchlist, to get on a plane; they'd almost certainly be caught. Rather they'd send an unknown terrorist to get on the plane; someone who could very easily be approved by the Clear Card system. The terrorists can probably scrape together $128, too. And given the wild success of the TSA's airport watchlist - as you're reading this, the number of names on the list is steadily creeping toward 1 million-it's hard to know the true quality of the background checks companies like VIP are conducting on Clear Card applicants. To wit: What kind of background checks would have eliminated an "all-American" military veteran like Timothy McVeigh - or legal immigrants with clean records like many of the terrorists of September 11? In addition, people who participate in programs such as Clear Card are likely wasting their money and giving up their private information for naught: after all, frequent travelers are often privy to perks like bypassing some security checks via frequent flier programs through their airlines - benefits that don't require fingerprinting and retinal scans. Rather than being an impediment to terrorism, programs like Clear Card are a welcome mat.
Racial Profiling Redux

Racial Profiling Redux

By Chandra Bhatnagar, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Human Rights Program at 5:43pm

In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character finds himself repeating the same miserable day over and over again. For Indian film star Shahrukh Khan, last week was Groundhog Day for racial and religious profiling. In 2009, Khan —…

TSA Seeks to Expand the Airport Experience Into Everyday Life

TSA Seeks to Expand the Airport Experience Into Everyday Life

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 7:02pm

The Los Angeles Times today reports on the TSA’s VIPR program, in which roving teams of security agents bring the joys of the airport security experience into bus and train stations, highways, the subway, and other transportation facilities around…

Watch Lists – Easy to Get On, Impossible to Get Off

Watch Lists – Easy to Get On, Impossible to Get Off

By Amanda Simon at 3:26pm

The New York Times had a great editorial in its Sunday paper that outlined the continuing issues with terror watch lists.

As if traveling weren't a hassle already (now even more so with invasive body scanners), imagine if your name were…

Senators Push Back on Storing Naked Security Images

Senators Push Back on Storing Naked Security Images

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:20pm

Earlier this month, the U.S. Marshals Service admitted that it had stored more than 34,000 images of people who had passed through the millimeter wave body scanners at a courthouse in Florida. They were stored despite federal agencies' previous…

A Happy Ending, So Far

By Nusrat Choudhury, Staff Attorney, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 9:39am

Last week, we got some good news in the case of Adnan Tikvesa, an airline employee whose security clearance was unexpectedly suspended by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) without any reason or reasonable opportunity for him to defend…

Mikey Does *Not* Like It

By Amanda Simon at 5:25pm

The ACLU has, for years, been screaming at the top of our lungs about government watch lists. For. Years. It turns out, though, one of the most powerful voices not heard before today is that of Mikey Hicks, an 8-year-old boy who has been on the…

The Naked Truth

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:12pm

As we gear up for another holiday season, the Transportation Security Administration has added a new wrinkle: naked travel.

USA Today has just reported that the TSA has purchased “150 security machines at airport checkpoints that enable…

TSA Search Case on CNN

By Rachel Myers, ACLU at 4:17pm

On Friday, Steve Bierfeldt, treasurer of Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty, and Larry Schwartztol, fearless ACLU attorney, appeared on CNN to talk about our new lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.

We filed the lawsuit on Steve's…

The Unfriendly Skies: JetBlue/TSA Officials Pay $240,000 for Grounding Arabic T-Shirt

By Rachel Myers, ACLU at 4:34pm

When it rains, it pours… stories about discrimination at the airport. As AirTran Airways scrambled to make good after excluding a Muslim family from one of their flights last week, a discrimination case from 2006 was settled when two Transportation…

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