[JURIST] US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] Wednesday issued a final rule setting out the details of his department's air passenger screening program [TSA official site]. Under the Secure Flight Final Rule [PDF text], responsibility for vetting the nation's air passengers moves from individual airlines to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)[offical site]. Airlines will collect the names, birthdays and genders of their passengers and transmit this information to the TSA, which will compare that against the government's "no fly" terrorist watch list and instruct airlines whether or not to issue a boarding pass. The collection of additional information is intended to reduce the number of misidentifications and increase the efficacy of the watch list, which has been criticized [JURIST report] by the Government Accountability Office [official site] for being inefficient. Screening for domestic flights is set to begin in early 2009, with matching on international flights slated for later in the year. The Washington Post has more
In response to privacy concerns [EFF report; ACLU report], TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said
Secure Flight will improve security by maintaining the confidentiality of the government's watch list information while fully protecting passengers' privacy and civil liberties. ... Ensuring privacy has been a cornerstone of this program and TSA has developed a comprehensive privacy plan to incorporate privacy laws and practices into all areas of Secure Flight.Privacy issues have plagued previous attempts at implementation of the program. In 2005, the TSA collected personal data [JURIST report] on commercial airline passengers to test the system, in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 [text] and a congressional ban. The data collection and review methods and risk ranking scheme in Secure Flight's abortive predecessor, the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II)[DHS fact sheet; JURIST report] were criticized by Congress, the ACLU [advocacy website] and inside the TSA itself for being too intrusive.