News & Politics

TSA Secretly Snoops on Passengers

If you flew in June of 2004 the Transportation Security Administration now has a file on you, amassing such passenger records as our names, phone numbers, and credit card info.
The Transportation Security Administration is the all-knowing, all-seeing federal agency in charge of taking our shoes off at airports, and our heroic leaders there have recently rooted out a treasure trove of invaluable data. Unfortuately, it's not information about some secret cell of terrorists--it's a trove of your and my personal information.

If you flew in June of 2004, TSA snoops now have a file on you--even though Congress specifically told them not to collect such data. Agency officials promised they wouldn't, but TSA secretly did it anyway, amassing such passenger records as our names, phone numbers, and credit card info.

Worse, TSA contracted the data tabulation to a private corporation, which used other databases to compile full profiles on us, including home addresses, spouses, and--BE VERY WORRIED--the exact latitude and longitude of our homes! There's a law against secret government databases, and TSA earlier pledged to congress that it would not store commercial data on air passengers--but there the info is, stored in TSA computers.

Not to worry, say the Bushites in charge, for this is just a test of a new ID verification system we're developing. Bad answer. Congress told the agency not to implement such a system until the Government Accountability Office gave its approval. The GAO has evaluated the system--and it gave TSA an F, noting that the ID program failed to meet nine out of the ten criteria that congress had set.

Well, picky, picky, say the Bushites. Even if we broke our promises, tried to go around the law, and failed to produce a passable system--hey, you can trust us with people's personal data because our ID system "is built on an airtight privacy platform."

This is Jim Hightower saying... Do we have "Sap" written on our foreheads? These people thumbed their noses at the congress, why would they let some bureaucratic privacy code stop them from ransacking our personal information? Far from trusted--they ought to be prosecuted.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush," from Viking Press. For more information, visit
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