Homeland Security Report on JetBlue Confirms TSA's Involvement in Privacy Scandal, ACLU Says

February 20, 2004 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–A report released today by the Department of Homeland Security on the JetBlue privacy scandal confirms suspicions that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was involved, and highlights the inevitability that information will be misused, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

“This report confirms our suspicions that the TSA was involved in this incident,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “When the government asks a heavily regulated company like an airline to hand over customer information, as TSA apparently did here, it’s no surprise they complied.”

The report was ordered after it became public that JetBlue had shared millions of passenger records with a subcontractor for the U.S. Army, which combined those records with other personal information in an attempt to learn how to detect terrorism. Questions were raised about the TSA’s role, given that it is working on a similar passenger profiling system, dubbed CAPPS II.

“One thing this report makes clear is that it is time for DHS to respond to our Freedom of Information Act request on this subject,” Steinhardt said. “The report was assembled by DHS’s Chief Privacy Officer Nuala O’Connor Kelly. If DHS can release this report to the public, then it can certainly release the documents requested by the ACLU so that we can independently verify the accuracy of this new information.”

Steinhardt said that the report did not put to rest the question of why the U.S. military was involved in a project that amounted to surveillance of the activities of U.S. citizens and that the question could not be answered until the relevant documents were brought into the light of day.

“The real lesson of the JetBlue incident is that as long as the government collects vast pools of information about our private activities, that information will be misused for other purposes and our privacy will be invaded,” Steinhardt said. “That is one reason why programs like CAPPS II are a bad idea.”

The DHS report is online at /node/22447.

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