[JURIST] The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] has violated the 1974 Privacy Act [text] by collecting personal information on nearly 250,000 people without their knowledge, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] report [PDF] released Friday. Congressional investigators said the TSA was testing a program called Secure Flight which checks airline passengers for potential matches on terrorist watch lists via a computerized system. The Privacy Act requires any government entity to inform the public of collection activities by saying what information they are gathering and for whom, why it is being gathered, and where it will be stored. According to the GAO report, the TSA gathered approximately 100 million records saying it would only use limited data received on passengers from airlines, but the agency actually began to privately create files on individuals to compare to the terrorist lists. Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) [official websites] wrote a scathing letter [press release] to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] saying "careless missteps such as this jeopardize the public trust." AP has more.