NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 5, 2004

The now-defunct program, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or Capps II, sought to make sure that air passengers are flying under their own identity and are not wanted as a terror suspect. It would have asked passengers to provide four pieces of information -- name, address, phone number and birth date -- when they make their reservation.

Privacy advocates on both the right and the left, however, attacked Capps II from the moment it was announced, says Heather Mac Donald [sic] (Manhattan Institute). They called it an eruption of a police state, and envisioned a jumble of bizarre hidden agendas.

Contrary to the rights lobby, says Mac Donald, Capps II was not:

  • A privacy intrusion: Passengers already give their name, address and phone number to make a flight reservation, without the slightest fuss - adding birth date hardly changes the privacy ledger.
  • A surveillance system: Neither the government nor the airlines would have kept any of the information beyond the safe completion of a flight.
  • A data mining program: Capps II had nothing to do with data mining; it was simply a primitive two-step data query system.

Since the demise of Capps II, the privocrats have tipped their hand: Their real agenda isn't privacy, but a crippling of all security measures. Leading advocate Edward Hasbrouck has decried both a voluntary "registered traveler" option, in which passengers agree to a background check in order to circumvent some security measures, and physical screening at the gate. Bottom line: Any security precautions prior to flight constitute a civil liberties violation. It is mystifying why the government should pay heed to people who so disregard the public good, says Mac Donald.

Source: Heather Mac Donald, "Hijacked by the 'Privocrats'"Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB109165986866683324,00.html


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