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Home > Past Releases and Reports > TSA: Every Traveler a Terror Suspect

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2003

Contact: Jim Harper

(202) 546-3701

TSA: Every Traveler A Terror Suspect

Privacilla Comments Sharply Criticize Agency Plans for Database of All American Travelers

Washington, D.C. filed comments with the Transportation Security Agency in the Department of Transportation today leveling sharp criticism against its plan to create a database of all American travelers. The agency plans to exempt the database from even the anemic protections of the Privacy Act.

Selected quotes from Privacilla's letter follow:

"The Department is proposing to maintain secret files about all American travelers. The files may contain all kinds of travel and transactional data. The files may be shared with nearly any type of government authority and many private organizations and individuals. The files will not be available for review or inspection by the data subjects. Indeed, Americans will not be entitled to know whether files about them are being maintained."

"The Department may not create a database of all air travelers in the United States, shield the database from public view using national defense and law enforcement exceptions to the Privacy Act, and simultaneously claim that it is not treating all travelers as suspects. This is a 'suspects' database."

"Expansive government databases about the behavior of all Americans needlessly degrade the privacy of the law-abiding. They do not prevent terrorism or cost-effectively catch crime. They are a poor, but expensive substitute for good analysis of information about threats and suspects that is already available to law enforcement and national security agencies. They are not worth the incursion against Americans' privacy."

"The Department should withdraw this system of records and restructure the CAPPS II program consistent with the privacy of law-abiding American travelers."

A copy of the full letter [.pdf format] is on the Privacilla Web site at ( is an innovative Web site that captures "privacy" as a public policy issue. Privacilla has been described as a "privacy policy portal" and an "online think-tank."


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