ACLU Concerned With 9/11 Panel's Recommendations for Airline Security, Some Measures Would Invade Privacy, Provide Little Safety

August 25, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged a key Congressional committee to carefully evaluate the recommendations of the 9/11 commission in the area of aviation security and to reject measures like the CAPPS II passenger profiling system that would unnecessarily intrude upon the privacy of Americans while doing little to make the skies safer.

“Although CAPPS II faces an uncertain future, the development of its successor still lurks in the shadows,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Congress must ensure the adoption of any aviation security measures truly bolster security and contain privacy and due process protections. As currently administered, the no-fly list is saturated with false positives – people who simply should not be on the list and have no way of getting off.”

The ACLU raised its concerns as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation held an oversight hearing on the recommendations of the 9/11 panel. Warren noted that the 9/11 commission took no position on whether the CAPPS II should go forward.

However, the 9/11 commission did strongly recommend broad expansions of “no-fly” and “automatic selectee” lists. Such lists have garnered media attention due to recent accounts of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) being kept from boarding their planes because their names appeared on such a list. The ACLU is currently involved in litigation challenging the constitutionality of no-fly lists.

The ACLU has had long-standing concerns about the use of federal watchlists. While it does not oppose the concept of watchlists per se, the practical use of such tools is fraught with peril for civil liberties. The no-fly list has spawned a long list of, in the words of the ACLU’s lawsuit, “stigmatization, interrogation, delay, enhanced searches, detention and/or other travel impediments for innocent passengers.”

Warren also noted that the commission’s recommendations flagged “false positives” as an issue. It cautioned that overreactions could impose high costs on individuals, our economy, and on our beliefs about justice. The ACLU has long advocated that suspicion must still be individualized and based on reliable indicators of threat and not whimsy, bias or unproven profiling schemes.

The ACLU has recommended that Congress enact a process to ensure independent review of the no-fly lists, and establish recourse to allow those wrongfully included to clear their names. Currently, there is no uniform system to address grievances with the Transportation Security Administration.

“Invasive, categorical profiling is not the answer,” Warren said. “If it takes Senator Kennedy three weeks to get off a no-fly list, what are average Americans supposed to do when they are wrongly targeted? Every hour spent dealing with an innocent American is an hour lost spent finding the real threats to airline security.”

More information about the ACLU’s lawsuit against the no-fly lists is available at:

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