ACLU Condemns Government Plans to Order Airlines to Turn Over Travel Details on 100 Million Americans

March 17, 2004

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW YORK--The American Civil Liberties Union today criticized a plan to force the nation's airlines to turn over to the government the travel details of the hundred million Americans who fly. The plan was announced by the head of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) at a Congressional hearing today. 

"It is a deeply significant step for the nation's airlines to begin feeding the details of Americans' travel records to the government for CAPPS II," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program. "It is a sign of things to come with a program that is simply incompatible with privacy and fairness for travelers." 

Speaking before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, acting TSA Administrator David M. Stone said the airlines would be forced to turn over the information within a few months. 

"It's putting the cart before the horse for the government to begin collecting vast amounts of personal details on Americans when it is so ill-prepared to handle that data," said ACLU Legislative Counsel LaShawn Warren. "The General Accounting Office made it clear last month that this program is far from workable. Among other things, TSA has admitted it still lacks a proper infrastructure to protect privacy, and the airlines are not even set up to collect the data that the program will rely on, such as full name, address, phone number, and date of birth." 

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives testified today that a "conservative estimate" of the cost to business in delays and denied boardings would be $2 billion, and estimates of the direct cost to businesses of implementing the program have been put at another $1 billion. 

"There are still many unanswered questions about how this program is going to work - not to mention how it will be paid for," Steinhardt said. "The costs of this program will be far steeper than proponents are letting on - not only in dollars, but in lost civil liberties," said Steinhardt.

An ACLU Feature on CAPPS II is online at: www.aclu.org/capps

The GAO Report finding that CAPPS II fails seven of eight criteria set by Congress is online at: /cpredirect/15038

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