Secure Flight News
According to Wired News, the DHS is looking for someone in Congress to sponsor a bill that eliminates congressional oversight over the Secure Flight program.
The bill would allow them to go ahead with the program regardless of GAO’s assessment. (Current law requires them to meet ten criteria set by Congress; the most recent GAO report said that they did not meet nine of them.) The bill would allow them to use commercial data even though they have not demonstrated its effectiveness. (The DHS funding bill passed by both the House and the Senate prohibits them from using commercial data during passenger screening, because there has been absolutely no test results showing that it is effective.)
In this new bill, all that would be required to go ahead with Secure Flight would be for Secretary Chertoff to say so:
Additionally, the proposed changes would permit Secure Flight to be rolled out to the nation’s airports after Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff certifies the program will be effective and not overly invasive. The current bill requires independent congressional investigators to make that determination.
Looks like the DHS, being unable to comply with the law, is trying to change it. This is a rogue program that needs to be stopped.
In other news, the TSA has deleted about three million personal records it used for Secure Flight testing. This seems like a good idea, but it prevents people from knowing what data the government had on them—in violation of the Privacy Act.
Civil liberties activist Bill Scannell says it’s difficult to know whether TSA’s decision to destroy records so swiftly is a housecleaning effort or something else.
“Is the TSA just such an incredibly efficient organization that they’re getting rid of things that are no longer needed?” Scannell said. “Or is this a matter of the destruction of evidence?”
Scannell says it’s a fair question to ask in light of revelations that the TSA already violated the Privacy Act last year when it failed to fully disclose the scope of its testing for Secure Flight and its collection of commercial data on individuals.
My previous essay on Secure Flight is here.