ACLU Criticizes CAPPS II in New Online Advertisements

April 2, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today launched a new online advertising campaign addressing the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II, the Transportation Security Administration's airline passenger profiling system that threatens to create a permanent blacklist of people who cannot fly.

""The proposed CAPPS II program will conduct unnecessarily invasive background checks into the private lives of innocent travelers, providing neither security nor freedom,"" said Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. ""The ACLU is committed to bringing these intrusions into our personal lives to the attention of the American public. In this era of the Internet, we believe we can reach a whole new audience with these ads.""

Under the proposed CAPPS II system, a check against various databases, including law enforcement, intelligence, and credit agencies, would be run each time someone buys an airline ticket and a risk assessment ""score"" for each passenger would be assigned: green for minimal, yellow to spark heightened security procedures and red for those judged to pose an acute danger. People with red scores would be referred to law enforcement.

The advertisements, which are running on the USA Today website, highlights that knowing one's ""score"" is pretty much a guessing game as ""the government's new rating system"" is secretive.  The ads toggle back and forth between red, yellow and green reflecting the government's arbitrary color-coded system for rating the traveling public. The ad will link to a new section on the ACLU web page detailing the CAPPS II program.  

Americans of all ideologies are alarmed with the intrusive proposals the Administration is proposing.  Conservative groups like Eagle Forum, the Free Congress Foundation and the Christian Coalition share the ACLU's concerns that CAPPS II could be circumvented with fake IDs. What's more, the system creates the potential for innocent Americans to be blacklisted and prohibited from flying, the ACLU said.  

CAPPS II would operate with little public accountability, and make it extremely difficult for travelers who have been assigned an inaccurate threat level to clear their records. The government has not fully explained how the system will work, what information will be accessed and how it will protect the data.  Nor has it guaranteed that private and public third parties will not abuse the data.  The Transportation Security Administration also has failed to show that the invasive program will even be an effective measure to screen and stop potential threats.

""It is clear that CAPPS II threatens our liberty, but its security benefits are far from clear," Murphy said. "It will drown security screeners in an ocean of private information; some of that data will be fraudulent, and much of it just plain wrong. CAPPS II is apparently based on the belief that you can find a needle in a haystack by adding more hay to the stack."

The new ad is part of the "Keep America Safe and Free" coordinated campaign at the ACLU, an initiative aimed at rolling back repressive federal policies implemented since 9/11.  Last month, the ACLU began an advertisement campaign that features a striking image of a contact lens decorated with the image of an American flag, reminding the public that ""it takes more than a display of pride"" to protect our rights.

Statistics image