Sep 17 2013

How airline reservations are used to target illegal searches

One of the most detailed pictures to date of how the US government uses airline reservations to target illegal searches is provided by documents released recently by the US government as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit brought by David House, an activist with the Pvt. Manning Support Network.

Mr. House was detained and searched and had his electronic devices confiscated and copied by DHS personnel at O’Hare Airport as he was re-entering the US after a vacation in Mexico in 2010.

The government learned of Mr. House’s travel plans through their systems for real-time monitoring and mining of airline reservations:

The ACLU analysis of the documents released to Mr. House, and reports by the New York Times and the Associated Press,  focus on the DHS seizure and copying of the data from Mr. House’s electronic devices. An article in Mother Jones highlights the technical ineptness of the government’s attempts to analyze the data seized from Mr. House. (It took DHS “experts” more than a month, for example, to realize that a portion of the data dump from Mr. House’s netbook was a Linux partition.)

But as discussed below, more is revealed by these documents about DHS access to, and use of, airline reservations.

The documents released to Mr. House may also help explain how David Miranda, the domestic partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained and searched last month while changing planes at Heathrow Airport in London.

And in that context, they may also suggest an explanation for why Mr. Miranda was detained and searched in the UK, and Mr. House in the US, but Mr. Greenwald himself has not been detained or similarly searched when he travels to the US.

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