Mar. 29, 2005 – Nine out of ten steps needed in order to implement a planned nationwide airline passenger-screening program have not been met, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The program, called Secure Flight, would hand over screening responsibilities from private airlines to the Transportation Security Administration, which would check passenger information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and credit card information, against terrorist watch lists.
The TSA achieved Congressâ€™ recommendation to establish an internal board charged with overseeing Secure Flightâ€™s development and implementation, yet failed other criteria, including ensuring the accuracy of terrorist watch lists, protecting passengersâ€™ privacy, and establishing means of preventing abuse and unauthorized access to the system.
"The agency thatâ€™s responsible for keeping dangerous people off planes is obviously going to err on the side of safety, and that's going to do very little for an innocent individual who canâ€™t fly," Marcia Hofmann, an attorney with the watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the Associated Press.
While acknowledging improvement following the removal of 4,800 incorrect names from the Terrorist Screening Centerâ€™s database, the GAO report says Secure Flight fails to address remedies for people who are mistakenly placed on terrorist watch lists.
"Given the lack of basic knowledge and testing of whether this program is even workable, it is hard to see how it could possibly be worth setting in motion so soon," said Timothy Sparapani, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, in a press statement released yesterday. "Just as it is possible for Americans to be both safe and free -- it is equally possible that if we are not careful we will end up with programs that make us neither safe nor free."