We’ve received and posted the latest installment in a continuing trickle of responses to a Freedom of Information Act request we made in 2014 for records related to Amtrak’s collaboration with US and foreign law enforcement and “border control” agencies.
The most recent batch of records released by Amtrak consists mainly of email correspondence between Amtrak IT staff responsible for supporting ticket sales through travel agencies (most of which occur through computerized reservation systems), programmers with Amtrak’s in-house ARROW reservation system, and Amtrak’s technical contacts at the four major CRSs used by travel agencies: Sabre, Apollo, Worldspan, and Amadeus.
Most of these exchanges relate to Amtrak’s decision in 2005 to start feeding information about all passengers on cross-border (USA-Canada and Canada-USA) Amtrak trains to US Customs and Border Protection, and to require all passengers on these trains to provide Amtrak with passport or travel document info to pass on to CBP.
This was not required by any US law or regulations, but was a voluntary decision by Amtrak. Some travel agents complained about this, but we’ve still seen no indication that they were given any answer about why Amtrak was doing this or what travelers or travel agents who didn’t want to provide this information could do. Amtrak’s own programmers were falsely told that this was required by order of CBP.
The messages we have received show that requiring travel agents to enter names and details of ID documents in PNRs for Amtrak travel created in the CRSs, and getting this information to flow through in standardized form to ARROW records and transmissions to CBP, proved more difficult than had been expected.