Oct 27 2008

Where is “Secure Flight” headed next?

Now that the TSA has released their final rule for the Secure Flight program, which would extend DHS control and surveillance of airline passengers to domestic flights, what happens next (after the final rule is published in the Federal Register, which normally happens within a week or so)?

Under the laws appropriating the funds for TSA and DHS operations, the next step should be review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Section 522 of the Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2005 provides:

None of the funds provided by this or previous appropriations Acts may be obligated for deployment or implementation, on other than a test basis, of the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II) or Secure Flight or other follow on/successor programs, that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), or any other Department of Homeland Security component, plans to utilize to screen aviation passengers, until the Government Accountability Office has reported to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives that: [10 specified criteria have been met]. Read More

Oct 27 2008

Charges against an Olympia lawyer who refused to show identification during an anti-war protest at the Port of Tacoma have been dismissed.

The lawyer for Legrand Jones had argued that it’s not a crime to refuse to identify yourself to police. Attorney William Ferrell said police were stopping people without cause during the July protest to gather information and discourage demonstrators. Under state law, it’s not a crime to refuse to identify oneself to police. “The Washington Supreme Court struck down Washington’s former ‘stop and identify’ statute,” Ferrell wrote in court filings. “In doing so, they made the following observation, a detainee’s refusal to disclose his name, address, and other information cannot be the basis of an arrest.”

Ferrell also said the case was important in the context of citizens’ freedom of speech. “Police were stopping people for real or imaginary criminal activities and asking for identification,” he said. “It was a tactic to gather intelligence. “It goes without saying that is has a chilling effect on people’s First Amendment rights and might keep people from going to protests.”

It is unclear whether the city will appeal the ruling.

Oct 23 2008

Radio hour today on “Secure Flight”

Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project will be on the Katherine Albrecht Show today from 5-6 p.m. Eastern Time (2-3 p.m. Pacific time), talking about Secure Flight. The Katherine Albrecht Show is syndicated nationally on the Genesis Communications Network. You can also listen to the show live online, and we’ll be taking listener questions on the air. If you missed the live broadcast, the archive of this hour of the show is available here as a downloadable mp3 podcast.

Oct 22 2008

Large Aircraft Security Program and “Watch-List Service Providers”

Even before the Secure Flight proposal goes into effect (and before there is any experience of whether it can be implemented or how it will work), the TSA is proposing to extend its air travel control and surveillance principles from passenger airlines to general aviation and all-cargo flights.

On October 9, 2008, the TSA issued a press release and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for a so-called “Large Aircraft Security Program” (LASP) for unscheduled and noncommerical flights.  LASP is explicitly modeled on Secure Flight, but with an additional twist: Instead of being required to submit personal information about each passenger to, and receive permisison from, the TSA, operators of “large” general aviation and cargo aircraft will be required to submit this data to, and get permisison from, a new class of private commercial data aggregation companies: “Watch-List Service Providers”.

Read More

Oct 22 2008

TSA won’t give up on “Secure Flight” travel permission and surveillance scheme

The DHS and TSA announced their final rule for the Secure Flight program for the control and surveillance of airline passengers during a photo op today at Reagan National Airport.

We aren’t among the journalists to whom the TSA’s anonymous spin doctors chose to leak their plans.  We’ll have more comments after we have reviewed the complete 195-page regulatory notice in more detail.

But our first reading of the “final rule” released today, as well as recent TSA and DHS comments about Secure Flight, including their press release today and testimony at a Congressional hearing we attended last month, suggest that their plans remain essentially unchanged from the Secure Flight proposal announced last year, and which we urged the TSA to withdraw as illegal in our testimony at the TSA’s public hearing and our more detailed written comments.

The DHS’s current spin on why we should love Big Brother and welcome Secure Flight is that it would reduce the number of people who are improperly prevented from flying or improperly subjected to more intrusive “secondary” search and/or interrogation, by “transferring watchlist matching from the airlines to the government”.

But the solution to the problems with “watchlists” is not to tighten their enforcement, but to replace secret administrative “no-fly” and “selectee” determinations with judicial determinations of dangerousness, made by judges in response to government motions for injunctions or restraining orders, and presentation of evidence sufficient to show that they pose a danger to aviation so great as to warrant restriction of their Constitutional and human rights to freedom of travel, assembly, and movement.  We don’t need to establish a new system of (secret) administrative pseudo-justice.  That’s what the courts are for, and they already have an established system of due process and review, including procedures for dealing safely with classified evidence related to national security. Read More

Oct 21 2008

TSA Expands Electronic Boarding Pass Scanning Program

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its electronic boarding pass pilot program. This system will make it easier for TSA to be able to gather and track individual travel data. The program began in Houston in December 2007 and added more airports in April. Here’s how the program works, according to TSA:

The electronic boarding pass contains a two-dimensional (2-D) barcode encrypted with specific passenger information, such as the traveler’s name and flight information.

At the checkpoint, passengers present their cell phones or PDA to a TSA travel document checking officer. The officer will scan the encrypted barcode using a handheld device to verify its authenticity. Passengers will still be required to show photo identification so officers can validate that the name on the boarding pass matches the name on the ID.

In fact, why doesn’t TSA take this to the next step? If the agency already knows who has a boarding pass from data sent by the airlines (to verify the pass’s authenticity), then why doesn’t TSA just tell travelers to use our ID cards as our boarding passes? “Save a tree — show your ID.”

TSA is already planning on using the boarding pass scanners nationwide to collect data. “Once the hand-held scanners are deployed nationwide, TSA will also use this technology to track wait times using standardized automated data collected at checkpoints. This development is expected to happen within about a year,” says TSA. Read More

Oct 09 2008

Purged State Voter Rolls Resulted From Illegal Widespread Primary Use of Social Security Database to Verify Voter Registrations

According to a New York Times article, tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law. States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires election officials to use the Social Security database to check a registration application only as a last resort, if no record of the applicant is found on state databases, like those for driver’s licenses or identification cards. The requirement exists because using the federal database is less reliable than the state lists, and is more likely to incorrectly flag applications as invalid. Many state officials seem to be using the Social Security lists first.

Last week, after the inquiry by the Times, Michael J. Astrue, the commissioner of the Social Security Administration, alerted the Justice Department to the problem and sent letters to election officials in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. The letters ask the officials to ensure that they are complying with federal law. By using the Social Security database so extensively, states are flagging extra registrations and creating extra work for local officials who are already struggling to process all the voter registration applications by Election Day. Read More

Oct 09 2008

Transportation Security Administration Likely to Relax Restrictions on Liquids Next Year

The head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, says that the agency will likely relax its restrictions on liquids on commercial flights next year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The rules were put in place after an alleged plot to bring “a liquid bomb” onto planes heading to the US from the UK.

In a post on TSA’s blog, Hawley said that TSA believes, “widespread deployment of new multi-view x-ray systems with an enhanced algorithm that detects specific liquids remains about a year away. But the multi-view x-ray itself is a significant improvement over the standard x-ray that’s been at the checkpoint since its inception in the 1970s.” Once the technology is ready, Hawley says that the agency will be more flexible toward liquids brought on by air travelers.

Security expert Bruce Schneier, among others, has questioned the efficacy of these restrictions on liquid and TSA security procedures generally. In a recent column, Schneier explained the security holes in TSA’s restrictions. Read More

Oct 03 2008

California Governor Rejects Bill That Would Implement REAL ID System

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 60. The legislation would have created a two-tier driver’s license system that would have allowed for the issuance of licenses to undocumented immigrants while at the same time formally adopt the REAL ID Act’s national identification system in California.

Specifically, SB 60 said:

SEC. 2. The Legislature intends by the enactment of this act to accomplish the following:
(a) Meet or exceed the document and issuance standards set forth in the federal Real ID Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-13), to ensure that California has a federally recognized and acceptable driver’s license and identification card.
(b) Provide driver’s licenses that permit driving, but cannot be used for federal identification purposes, consistent with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, to California drivers that cannot meet the minimum identity confirmation requirements necessary to obtain a federally recognized driver’s license or identification card.

In a statement (PDF) accompanying the veto, Gov. Schwarzenegger focused on the immigration implications of the REAL ID Act. He explained, “This bill does not specify how DMV would validate the identity of individuals who do not have documented proof that their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. I have previously stated that the ability to verify documents used to establish an identity must include a way to determine whether an individual is who he or she purports to be.” Read More

Oct 02 2008

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Includes $100M for REAL ID

Over the weekend, Congress passed H.R. 2638, a Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Resolution that includes funding for federal agencies though March. President Bush signed the bill into law earlier this week. H.R. 2638 includes a provision granting $100 million for state implementation of REAL ID. (These funds are in addition to the $79 million in grants DHS gave to states for REAL ID implementation earlier this year.)

H.R. 2638 reads:

SEC. 547. For grants to States pursuant to section 204(a) of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (division B of Public Law 109-13), $50,000,000, to remain available until expended. In addition, for developing an information sharing and verification capability with States to support implementation of the REAL ID Act, $50,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That none of the funds provided in this section for development of the information sharing and verification system shall be available to create any new system of records from the data accessible by such information technology system, or to create any means of access by Federal agencies to such information technology system other than to fulfill responsibilities pursuant to the REAL ID Act of 2005.

“Verification hub” is just the latest euphemism for the national identification system DHS seeks to create by linking the motor vehicle databases of all 56 states and territories. This massive national database could contain data on all 240 million driver’s license and cardholders nationwide, if all the states and territories agree to implement the national ID system. Read More