ACLU, Conservatives, Civil Rights Groups Agree: CAPPS II Raises Serious Privacy and Security Concerns

August 25, 2003 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – At a forum entitled “”CAPPS II: Passenger Screening and Privacy Concerns,”” hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union, prominent conservatives and the Washington head of the NAACP today warned Congress about potential threats to privacy and civil rights under the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) now infamous Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System (CAPPS II) airport spying system.

“Not only would CAPPS II threaten privacy and likely reduce security, but there’s no guarantee against bias in the system,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative office. “Further, TSA officials are already hinting that CAPPS II could be used outside of the airports – a clear example of mission creep.”

“”We will soon join dozens of other groups in filing comments urging officials to scrap the program in its current form,”” Murphy added. “”Safety and freedom are not served by overreaching and ineffective security measures.””

Murphy was joined this morning by former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA); James X. Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology; David Keene of the American Conservative Union; Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, and Hilary Shelton of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP. The discussion this morning reflected the growing concern in America about the lack of privacy safeguards and potential ineffectiveness of CAPPS II.

CAPPS II came under fire recently when the TSA published proposed regulations in the Federal Register this summer and announced a sixty-day public comment period that closes at the end of September. CAPPS II is designed to perform extensive background checks using sensitive information to determine the security risk of all airline passengers. The most intrusive and dangerous element of the program – the construction of a system for conducting background checks – would depend on shadowy intelligence/law enforcement databases of questionable reliability.

Many groups have raised concerns about CAPPS II being an integrated database that would run several searches on individual travelers’ personal information. The database could be used for purposes far beyond air travel, allowing access to individuals’ personal information for government functions at the local, state, federal and even international level. Not only would the database limit individuals’ ability to travel freely, but it would also provide the basis for arrest and detention. This system would scrutinize every traveler, greatly increasing the chance that innocent people would be identified as terrorists, which would potentially undermine security. Some groups have also raised concerns that CAPPS II would have a disproportionate impact on racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

“”It is bad enough that the CAPPS II system would create a de facto government blacklist that will hurt innocent Americans,”” added Murphy. “”But it is even more intolerable that minorities could be hurt more than other Americans. This panel demonstrates that all of us should be concerned with this new incarnation of Big Brother””

To listen to an audio stream of the event (real player required) please go to:

To watch the video stream of the event (real player required) please go to:

Laura Murphy’s remarks can be seen at:

The ACLU Fact Sheet on CAPPS II can be seen at:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.