By Amanda Chiarello,
Domestic News Writer
The Transportation Security Administration (T.S.A.) will start screening passengers long before they step foot into the airport. They will do this by searching government and private databases, which include historical records such as employment information, property records, car registrations and even physical characteristics.
According to the New York Times, “the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings.”
Some prescreening has already taken place. T.S.A. released documents letting others know they must follow government regulations when gathering and using individual’s records.
However, details about the program have not been publicly announced. T.S.A. has not made it very clear how they will use this information to prevent potential risks. Many people are against the new screenings, saying they are an intrusion of privacy. A report on the New York Times states that activists for higher security measures have mixed ideas regarding the accuracy of prediction terrorist intent via computer algorithms.
“I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”
T.S.A. said the new screenings are needed to make the procedures more targeted. Airlines are required to share traveler’s passport numbers with the T.S.A.
“Secure Flight has successfully used information provided to airlines to identify and prevent known or suspected terrorists or other individuals on no-fly lists from gaining access to airplanes or secure areas of airports,” the security agency said in a statement in response to the feedback it was receiving. “Additional risk assessments are used for those higher-risk passengers.”
Frequent fliers are encouraged to participate in T.S.A.’s trusted traveler program, PreCheck, which will allow them to pass through security more quickly. In order for this to occur, frequent fliers must submit fingerprints and go through a criminal background check.
Much of the information found through the screenings is also used elsewhere. For example, applicants to the new program who will submit fingerprints as part of the process will also be adding their prints to an F.B.I. database that houses fingerprints to be used to check unsolved crimes.
The Automated Targeting System, maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, is a part of the screening system, which monitors people entering the United States. The data the system receives helps determine which people will be placed on the no-fly list and which people need to undergo more in-depth screening.
A Traveler Redress Inquiry Program has been set up by the Department of Homeland Security for the people who feel they are being targeted for no reason. In nine months, the program received at least 13,000 inquiries. However, according to many of these people, their questions were never answered.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 29 print edition.
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