Jul 17 2009

PASS ID or REAL-ID? Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee?

The Senate Homeland Secuirty Committee hearing this Wednesday on “Reevaluating the REAL ID Act” was a sham, in which the only”opponents” or “critics” of the current REAL-ID law allowed to testify were those who prefer the PASS-ID bill to substitute an alternate national ID card mandate.  Critics of any national ID need not apply to be heard as part of this debate between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum.

Eevn the few positive features of  the PASS-ID bill came under attack.  Senator Collins of Maine wanted to know whether the bill would allow the sort of airport “security” measures that are used in Israel (notorious for ethnic profiling), and specifically whether the PASS-ID provision that, ““no person shall be denied boarding a commercial aircraft solely on the basis of failure to present a driver’s license or identification card issued pursuant to this subtitle,” would still allow denail of boarding, regardless of ID, solely on the basis of “behavioural profiling”.  And the National Retail Association wants to make sure that the PASS-ID prohibition on non-governmental scanning or use of machine-readable (bar-code, mag stripe, or RFID) data on government-issued ID cards would still allow stores to skim this data in order to profile patterns of “suspicious” merchandise returns.  Would anyone object, they want to know, to an exception to this provision that would allow scanning and tracking of machine-readable ID data to detect or prevent “fraud or other illegal activity”?

Yes, we would object to such an open-ended exception.  More importantly, we object to any mandatory national ID.  So do tens of millions of Americans, regardless of whether Congress does’t want our views to be part of the debate.

Jul 17 2009

Secure Flight to use same data mining tools as CAPPS-II

The TSA has been anxious to convince us that the renamed Secure Flight scheme for airline passenger profiling, surveillance, and control is fundamentally different and (despite the great new name) less Orwellian than its prdecessor, the thoroughly discredited CAPPS-II (“Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System, version 2”).

The TSA also wants us to believe that Secure Flight “does not use commercial data” (actually, it relies primarily on commercial data in airline reservations or Passenger Name Records) or data mining.

Now we learn from the boasts of one of the TSA’s contractors that “Secure Flight” will rely on the same fuzzy matching and data mining software that was used in the first trials of CAPPS-II in 2002 — which were unsuccessful, and which used illegally obtained PNRs for real travelers on real flights.

And despite the TSA’s claims that it isn’t a data-mining system, the contractor, Infoglide Software, describes the software being incorporated into “Secure Flight” as a tool for “mining today’s evergrowing sources of data”.  Oops!  perhaps the TSA forgot to tell them the party line about how to describe their products, or their marketing department didn’t get the message.

Nothing has really changed in CAPPS-3, a/k/a “Secure Flight”.  Depite all the minor tweaks from CAPPS-II, it still doesn’t meet the standards required by international human rights treates, the Constitution, or Federal statutes. Nothing has changed, including the need to stop it now — before another billion dollars or more is spent over the next year or two on implementing this system of surveillance and control of our movements.