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.