ACLU Applauds End of CAPPS II

July 15, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union today praised the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration for killing the passenger profiling system known as CAPPS II.

“The government has recognized that this program would have had immense implications for Americans’ privacy, while providing little protection against terrorism,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and other decisionmakers are to be commended for taking this decisive step.”

USA Today quoted Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge today as confirming that CAPPS II (an acronym for the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) was going to be shut down. Under the program, the government would have conducted a background check on every person flying to, from, or within the United States, and made a judgement about them as to the risk they supposedly posed to aviation.

“Knowing that this program is dead, I do not feel one bit more vulnerable to terrorist attack,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. “But I feel a lot less afraid of getting trapped in a tangled security bureaucracy, with no assurance of getting out.”

Acting TSA Director David Stone yesterday indicated that the agency was revamping the program, but until Ridge’s definitive statement, the ACLU said, those comments looked like just the latest twist in a long, gradual process of reworking the program.

“All too often the Bush Administration’s approach to preventing terrorism has been based on a dragnet approach that turns every American into a suspect,” said Steinhardt. “We hope that this decision is not just a tactical retreat, but part of a broader recognition that such an approach to security is ineffective and contrary to our traditions of freedom.”

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