The DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has released a redacted version of a report (OIG-09-103) that was provided to Congress in August, evaluating the TSA’s “Traveler Redress Inquiry Program” (TRIP). The TRIP name may be corny, but it’s also oddly accurate: it’s a system for inquiries, not answers, and as the OIG concludes it advertises more than it delivers and and often doesn’t result in real redress.
We commend Rep. Bennie Thompson, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, for requesting this report. It’s worth reading for giving one of the most detailed public descriptions to date as to the actual process by which a constellation of Federal agencies decide what entries to put on (and off) their “watch lists”, and who to allow to fly.
The OIG doesn’t consider the statutory, Constitutional, and international treaty-law right to travel, referring at one point to “the privilege of boarding an aircraft” (p. 68). But even within this perspective of travel as a privilege, not a right, the OIG concludes that the current redress and review procedure “is not fair” (p. 59):
This approach provides no guarantee that an impartial review of the redress complaint will occur. Instead, it ensures that the offices that initially acted on the TECS lookout and were the source of the redress-seeker’s travel difficulties will also be the final arbiters of whether the basis for the traveler’s secondary inspection is overridden…
DHS is required to offer aggrieved travelers a “fair” redress process. Impartial and objective review and adjudication of redress petitions is an essential part of any fair redress process. A process that relies exclusively on the review and consideration of redress claims by the office that was the source of the traveler’s grievance is not fair. CBP should modify its redress process in this area to provide for independent review.