NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Airline Passenger Profiling: CAPPS II

August 26, 2003

Both conservative and liberal civil liberties groups are concerned about new airline passenger screening methods being developed by the Transportation Security Administration, reports the Washington Times. The TSA would conduct background checks using a data system containing information on more than 2 million passengers flying daily in the country.

  • The current profiling program flags air passengers for special attention if they buy one-way tickets or use cash, and it established a "no fly" list preventing some passengers from flying.
  • The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II, would use second-generation profiling technology to collect personal, commercial and government information -- including credit records -- to determine whether travelers posed any threat, says Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative office.

The TSA would use the information to tag travelers. Green would indicate travelers deemed as posing no security risk; those tagged yellow would be subjected to heightened scrutiny; and those coming up red would be pulled aside or detained, she said.

Critics said they see the potential for "mission creep" -- passengers with outstanding criminal warrants also will be targeted. Among the vocal opponents of CAPPS II are the American Conservative Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Americans for Tax Reform.

In a written statement, the TSA said CAPPS II will not use bank records, records indicating "creditworthiness" or medical records.

CAPPS II was proposed in January, then revamped. The public comment period for the program extends until the end of next month.

Source: Audrey Hudson, "Rights Advocates Slam New Screening System," Washington Times, August 26, 2003.


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