Signs of a Declining Culture

Not so much that it does happen, but rather that we let it happen.

Millions of Travelers Rated for Terror Potential
Assessments Cannot Be Viewed or Challenged
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, AP

WASHINGTON (Dec. 1) – Without their knowledge, millions of Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders in the past four years have been assigned scores generated by U.S. government computers rating the risk that the travelers are terrorists or criminals.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.

The government calls the system critical to national security following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Some privacy advocates call it one of the most intrusive and risky schemes yet mounted in the name of anti-terrorism efforts.

Virtually every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is scored by the Homeland Security Department’s Automated Targeting System, or ATS. The scores are based on ATS’ analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

The use of the program on travelers was quietly disclosed earlier this month when the department put a notice detailing ATS in the Federal Register, a fine-print compendium of federal rules. The few civil liberties lawyers who had heard of ATS and even some law enforcement officers said they had thought it was only used to screen cargo.

The Homeland Security Department called the program “one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world” and said the nation’s ability to spot criminals and other security threats “would be critically impaired without access to this data.”

Read it here.

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