Dec 29 2006

More illegalities in the “Automated Targeting System”

Even while trying to defend the Automated Targeting System that is being used to deny travelers their rights on the basis of secret “risk assessments” that give each of us a terror score from secret databases of third-party and government information about us, the Department of Homeland Security has admitted to more and more violations of Federal laws, the U.S. Constitution, and international human rights treaties.

Today the Identity Project filed supplemental comments with the DHS, pointing out the additional legal problems — including criminal violations of the Privacy Act by DHS officials — revealed by DHS statements since we filed our initial comments on the ATS scheme and how it violates an explicit Congressional prohibition on assigning risk to airline passengers whose names aren’t on government watch lists.

We don’t expect the DHS, especially its Privacy (invasion) Ofiice, to police itself. Keep asking questions and demand answers and action from Congress and European Union officials. If you are in the EU, request your travel records so that we can find out what has really been happening, and how they have really been used.

Dec 14 2006

Czar Chertoff defends Real ID

The Real ID bill that was sneaked into law last year is getting pushed by head totalitarianism czar Michael Chertoff. Slashdot readers are unimpressed. State legislators throughout the US will be considering bills to either ban Real ID or to implement it in 2007. We suggest writing to your state representatives, asking them to ban it in your state. It will cost billions, it will hassle every ordinary person (you’ll have to produce original birth certificates and such to the DMV again — and any paper that’s out of order will mean endless harassment), and the basic premise is wrong in two ways. One, the federal government can’t tell us citizens that we’re not permitted to travel, or go to court, without its permission; those are RIGHTS, not privileges. Second, the federal government doesn’t have the authority to demand that the states revise their IDs; that’s a state power. The reason the federal government doesn’t have either of these powers is to guard against totalitarian rule from Washington. All hail Czar Chertoff! (Those who don’t salute will be blacklisted).

Dec 13 2006

Targeting the Automated Targeting System

The DHS has been illegally operating a scheme for at least four years that assigns a terrorist risk assessment score to any American who crosses the border by air; and retains all the data used to generate the score for 40 years. The “Automated Targeting System”, which DHS Chertoff has described as “righteous”, has been operating illegally for several years, despite a specific ban by Congress on any and all risk assessment scoring on US citizens.

The time to speak out against this illegal, un-American program is now. DHS is trying to paper-up it’s illegal scheme by publishing a notice in the Federal Register.

We’ve set up an easy way for you to submit your comments without having to navigate the Byzantine labyrinth that is the Federal Register. Simply click here to be taken to a user-friendly submission form.

The comment period closes December 29th, so now is the time to have your say.

Dec 08 2006

Chertoff thinks it’s “righteous” to give each traveler a terror score

Everywhere he goes this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is being dogged by questions about the illegality of the “Automated Targeting System” we pointed out in our comments filed Monday.

Today in Atlanta, Chertoff had this to say about the scheme that is already being used to archive your last 40 years of travel records, use them and everything else the government can find out about you to assign you a terror “risk assessment” each time you cross a U.S. border, and use that score to decide whether to let you travel:

“It’s not only legal but required by law,” Chertoff said during a visit to
Atlanta. “I think this is a righteous program.”…

Literally every day we’re turning people away” at U.S. entry points,
Chertoff said.

And he asserted that the ATS has “no cost to privacy or human rights.”

The AP story that reported this didn’t say whether Chertoff said godliness or cleanliness are among the 50+ factors used to calculate this “righteous” score.

Dec 08 2006

If you travel, you’re still a target

Other than us here at the Identity Project, it seems like nobody in Congress, nobody in the Department of Homeland Security, and nobody else bothers to read the law, or pay attention to whether the surveillance state is following the rules that are supposed to limit their intrusions on our lives and movements.

In comments filed Monday with the DHS, we pointed out that the newly-revealed “Automated Targeting System” (ATS) that the DHS has been operating for at least 7 years, compiling a massive database of travel reservations and other records about travelers and using this to assign us a “terrorist score” every time we cross the borders of the U.S., violates repeated direct orders from Congress to the DHS not to spend a penny on assigning such “risk assessments” to airline passengers.

That seems to have come as a surprise both the DHS, which has admitted to reporters that it has been doing this sort of scoring since the late 1990s — apparently paying no attention to the law — and to Congress.

In response to the furor generated by our comments, the Representative who drafted the law has now said that what the DHS was doing “clearly goes contrary to what we have in law” and was the kind of thing “we have been trying to prohibit.”

Many other organizations have now endorsed this argument in our comments.

Today the DHS published a new notice in the Federal Register which re-opens the public comment period on the ATS traveler-surveillance and scoring scheme, but which also officially allows it to remain in operation — as illegally as ever — in the meantime.

That’s not nearly good enough. If you file comments (go to, search for docket 2006-0060, scroll through the list of documents on that docket to DHS-2006-0060-0062, and click on the “add comment” icon in the right-most column) or write to your representatives in Congress or the Canadian or European Parliament, demand that the DHS shut down the ATS and destroy the dossiers they’ve been collecting — now, not waiting until next month — and that Congress and other governments demand both answers and action, not just more empty promises to obey the laws the DHS has been breaking for years. You can submit comments until 5 p.m. Eastern time Friday, December 29th.  European Union citizens and residents can, and should, also demand your travel records and an accounting of what’s been given to the U.S. government.  Since the ATS has been exempted from FOIA and the Privacy Act, only requests in other countries where the same airlines and reservation systems do business, under those countries’ data protection laws, will enable us to find out what’s really been going on — or bring it to a halt.

Dec 05 2006

DHS dismisses the right to travel

Rejecting the objections raised in comments by the Identity Project and others, the DHS Bureau of Customs and Border Protection has ordered that all travelers between the USA and Canada, Mexico, or other countries in the Western Hemisphere, where passports weren’t previously required, will have to present current valid passports to enter or leave the USA by air or sea, effective January 23, 2007.

“Your papers, please!”

Orders applying the same requirement to travel by land across the U.S. borders will follow, no later than June 1, 2009.

In issuing its final rule and an updated (but still grossly inaccurate) assessment for the “Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative”, the CBP summarily dismissed all of our objections based on international treaties and human rights laws protecting the freedom to travel:


One commenter stated that the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] is contrary to U.S. obligations under international human rights law, free trade agreements, and U.S. statutes, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Charter of the Organization of American States, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the NAFTA Implementation Act, because the rules restrict free movement of people in the Western Hemisphere.


By requiring a valid passport as an entry document, DHS and DOS are not denying U.S. or non-U.S. citizens the ability to travel to and from the United States.

So I guess they mean that as long as they give us permission to travel, they can impose whatever restrictions they feel like on how, when, or where we are allowed to travel, or what papers we need to show them in order to get their permission?

Dec 05 2006

Every traveler is a target

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has revealed the exisitence of an “Automated Targeting System” for all international travelers (and some domestic travelers whose reservations are linked with anyone traveling internationally, as well as other people identified in reservation records) that collects information about travelers including their complete travel reservations, assigns each person a “risk assessment” score each time they cross the U.S. border, and stores these secret dossiers for 40 years.

The DHS claims the right to “share” this information with local, state, and Federal agencies and foreign governments, but won’t allow you to see your own dossier or find out what score they have given you, whether you are a target, or any of the information on which they have based your score.

The database will be used for “targeting”. The DHS doesn’t say what will happen to you if your lifetime travel score makes you one of their targets, but presumably it will be one of the factors the DHS will use to decide whether to give you permission to travel.

The Identity Project has filed comments with the DHS, objecting to this proposal. Among other things, we’ve pointed out that Congress has expressly forbidden the DHS from spending a penny on any system like this to assign risk scores to airline passengers, and that the Privacy Act forbids any Federal agency form collecting information abotu how we exercise rights protected by the First Amendment — like our right to travel — except as expressly directed by Congress.