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vague_ascetic's Journal: TSA Follies

Journal by vague_ascetic

Making a List, Checking it Twice; Going to Find Out Who's Naughty and Nice...

January 17, 2007, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation conducted a hearing: Aviation Security - Reviewing the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. At the hearing, Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley, Director of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) testified. From Hawley's prepared statement:

"TSA is firmly committed to protecting the privacy and civil liberties of travelers. After completing a vulnerability assessment of the Secure Flight program and after considering feedback from the Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), as well as DHS evaluations of the program, I announced to this Committee that TSA was re- baselining the program. At that time, we undertook this effort to assure privacy and information security in Secure Flight by making sure the foundation of the program was strong and that it will be successful upon implementation. That work has now been completed.

I am pleased to update you that we are currently working with the DHS Screening Coordination Office (SCO) toward achieving DHS certification and demonstrating satisfaction of the ten areas of Congressional direction to GAO. We are working closely with GAO to facilitate their review of the program's development. In addition, through regularly scheduled meetings with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we are coordinating airline industry needs with CBP and the airlines with the intent of providing a single DHS system interface to the industry. Key to our efforts in improving passenger pre-screening has been the tremendous undertaking to systematically review names on the No Fly List. The purpose of the review is to remove, or downgrade to the Selectee List, individuals that do not meet the established criteria for the No Fly List. The review implements new guidance for the No Fly and Selectee Lists ratified in July 2006 by the Terrorist Screening Center's (TSC) Governance Board. Just as the threat environment is fluid, so must the No Fly List be maintained as a true list of individuals who currently pose a threat, rather than maintaining on the list those who were feared to have presented a threat in the past, but no longer do. TSA and the TSC, in collaboration with all the nominating agencies responsible for compiling the No Fly List, are in the process of a thorough, name-by- name review of that list. We expect that by the time the review is completed in mid- February, the No Fly List should be reduced by approximately 50%. A similar review will be undertaken with respect to the Selectee List.

"Integral to the successful execution of our passenger pre-screening efforts is our redress system, by which travelers who either previously have been misidentified or believe they are on the No Fly or Selectee List in error may apply to have that error corrected. We have significantly modified the process in response to customer feedback that the process was too cumbersome and expensive. Now an applicant need submit only a single document--a United States Passport--to verify his or her identity. Approximately 70% of applicants have this document and are therefore able to apply for relief without submitting other documentation. We have also eliminated the requirement that identity documents be notarized and we allow electronic submission of the application and supporting documentation. Finally, TSA introduced an automated Redress Management System (RMS). After assuring the privacy of users and the security of the system, RMS was launched on October 6, 2006, enabling travelers to submit and check the status of their applications electronically via the internet.

I'm Being Followed by a BuShadow...

This should come as good news to the Committee's co-Chairman, Senator Ted 'internets tubes' Stevens (R-Alaska):

"At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, Hawley ran into inquiries from lawmakers with family members or friends who had encountered problems at airport checkpoints.

Among them was Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who complained that his wife, Catherine, was being identified as "Cat" Stevens and frequently stopped due to confusion with the former name of the folk singer now known as Yusuf Islam, whose name is on the list. In 2004 he was denied entry into the U.S., but officials declined to explain why."

Beverley Lumpkin-AP, "No-Fly List Checked for Accuracy, Cut", PhillyBurbs, January 18, 2007

The real news is that the head of the TSA admitted that the No Fly List had a 50% false positive rate. Does anyone believe that there is not a commensurable false negative rate too?

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TSA Follies

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