Monday, March 28, 2005

TSA Misled the Public and Congress on Privacy

A report released on Friday by the Dept. of Homeland Security's Acting Inspector General Richard Skinner, said the agency misled airline passengers, Congress and the media in 2003 and 2004 regarding its role getting personal information about airline passengers. The TSA used the personal information, (of about 12 million people) obtained without permission and in violation of some airlines' privacy policies, to test a new screening system

QUOTE:

"TSA officials made inaccurate statements regarding these transfers that undermined public trust in the agency. These misstatements were apparently not meant to mischaracterize known facts. Instead, they were premised on an incomplete understanding of the underlying facts."

The report cites specific times when TSA officials made inaccurate statements about passenger data:

•In September 2003, the agency's Freedom of Information Act staff received requests from JetBlue passengers asking if the TSA had their records, as a result of publicity surrounding JetBlue. The TSA Web site stated that that it had no JetBlue passenger data. the notice stayed on the Web site for more than a year, even though by May TSA had found JetBlue passenger records.

•In November 2003, TSA chief James Loy told the Governmental Affairs Committee that certain kinds of passenger data were not being used to test passenger prescreening, when, in fact, they were.

• In September 2003, in response to a question from reporter, a TSA spokesman said only fake data were used to test the TSA screening system. Those responses "were not accurate," the report said.

In addition, the report concluded that Between February 2002 and June 2003, TSA was involved in the transfer of personal information from airlines 14 times, involving 12 million records from America West, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, Frontier and JetBlue.

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