Aug 25 2010

Lawsuit filed against DHS travel surveillance

In the first lawsuit to challenge one of the U.S. government’s largest post-9/11 dragnet surveillance programs, the First Amendment Project (FAP) filed suit today under the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) against U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the DHS division that operates the illegal “Automated Targeting System” of lifetime travel histories and travel surveillance dossiers including complete airline reservations (Passenger Name Records or PNRs).  The Identity Project is part of FAP, and the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Identity Project consultant and travel expert Edward Hasbrouck.

The complaint filed today in Hasbrouck v. CBP asks the court to declare that CBP violated the Privacy Act and FOIA, and order CBP to turn over the travel records about himself that Hasbrouck has requested, as well as an accounting of who else CBP has disclosed these records to, what happened to Hasbrouck’s previous unanswered Privacy Act and FOIA requests and appeals (some of which have been pending and ignored by CBP for almost three years, and may have been among those recently revealed to have been improperly held up for “political review” by higher-ups in DHS and/or the White House), and how these records in the CBP “Automated Targeting System” are indexed, searched, and retrieved.

The case is important in part because it shows that, despite DHS claims that everyone who has asked for their travel records has received them, and that no one has complained about DHS misuse of PNR data, DHS has entirely ignored many such requests and complaints, even when they have come from U.S. citizens like Mr. Hasbrouck.

There’s more about the case and its significance in our FAQ: Edward Hasbrouck v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection.