Senator demands action on TSA data-sharing flap

A key senator on Monday said further action may be needed to rectify the unauthorized sharing of American citizens' personal information following the admission by the Homeland Security Department that it covered up its role in the transfer of airline passengers' data without their knowledge.

"I obviously expect action to be taken, and I'm obviously going to follow up," Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins said in an interview with National Journal reporters. "This has been an area that I feel very strongly about. It's very troubling."

The Maine Republican and committee ranking member Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., pressed the department on the discovery that JetBlue had transferred passenger data to the Defense Department after receiving approval of Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but department officials had denied it. On Friday, the Homeland Security privacy officer released a report acknowledging that TSA was involved, but had not violated any laws.

TSA's early denial of its involvement "may call for further work by the IG [inspector general] or personnel actions, I don't know. I need to find out more about that," Collins said. Collins said she would meet with Deputy Homeland Security Secretary James Loy on Monday to discuss the results of the privacy officer's report.

Collins said another issue arising from the JetBlue case is that TSA facilitated the transfer of sensitive, personal passenger data without following the proper procedures.

"Although the department may not have violated the Privacy Act, and the privacy office has found that they have not, it certainly violates the spirit of the [law]," she said.

Collins called for better training of department officials, better adherence to privacy protections and better procedures for the handling of personal information.

Collins said the issue also may slow Homeland Security's progress on implementing the Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System (CAPPS II).

"I think CAPPS II is behind schedule for a reason, and I think this is one of the reasons. It's that we do not yet have a good way, for example, for passengers to challenge inaccurate information," she said.

Failure to improve in this area could affect the nation's ability to protect itself, Collins said.

"Americans are going to be very reluctant to cooperate in security initiatives if they feel that their personal rights are not being protected," she said. "We're going to have a constant tension going forward between security and privacy, between security and civil liberties, and we have to get this down right."

Collins also said she still has concerns about the placing of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) under the CIA. TTIC was established by presidential executive order to handle terrorist-related information from throughout the intelligence community, including Homeland Security.

"I still am concerned that there are not clear lines of authority," Collins said. "My concern is that it will become a creation of the CIA rather than a fusion center."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.