Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Double-Secret TSA Lists

Do you remember the issues I had a couple months ago at the Vancouver airport?  I questioned then if I might be being personally singled out for special harassment.  Perhaps I was:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has put out a new report intended to analyze the performance of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the operation of the watchlists that determine how much abuse passengers have to suffer before being allowed on a plane (assuming they're allowed).

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) read through the report and was a bit disturbed at what they've discovered. The ACLU, you may recall, has been suing the government (and winning) over the horrible, opaque way the watchlists and no-fly lists have been operating in secret. You may also recall a recent report from The Intercept showing that hundreds of thousands of Americans placed on watchlists for extra screening have no known ties to terrorism. In fact, today Stephen Hayes, a senior writer for The Weekly Standard, tweeted that he discovered he'd been added to a DHS watchlist after taking a one-way flight to Turkey in July.

The ACLU notes that the TSA has taken to assigning passengers to risk categories for reasons that have nothing to do with any law enforcement agency recommending them for review...
The TSA is keeping those criteria secret, which is part of the problem. However, the GAO report states that the "high-risk" passengers aren't just those who appear to match a name on the FBI's No Fly, Selectee, or Expanded Selectee lists (as problematic as those lists may be). Now, the TSA is also using intelligence and law enforcement information, along with "risk-based targeting scenarios and assessments," to identify passengers who may be "unknown threats."

In other words, the FBI's flawed definition of someone who is a suspected threat to aviation security isn't relaxed enough for the TSA, so the TSA is creating its own blacklists of people who are hypothetical threats. Those people are also subjected to additional screening every time they fly. To make matters worse, another recently published GAO report indicates that the redress process for travelers who have been incorrectly caught up in the watchlisting system does not apply to these new TSA blacklists. So the TSA's "unknown threats" are truly without recourse.
The Directorate of Internal Security. That's what we have now.

1 comment:

maxutils said...

I actually prefer this strategy to randomness. El Al airlines from Israel make no bones about targeting people who set off their spidey senses ... and they do a really good job at keeping their planes safe. Personally? I think a one way ticket to a predominantly Muslim country is suspicious. So a little extra checking? Probably not a bad idea. I don't know if you were subjected to profiling, and if so for what ... but I'd rather they target suspicious people, even when wrong, than have everyone take off their shoes and belt.