Judge requires disclosure of passenger-screening report

The Transportation Security Administration must sift through a draft version of its privacy assessment report on its shelved system designed to pinpoint terrorists in airports and provide an analysis on which portions of the document are secret to a public-interest group, a judge ruled Monday.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center last October sued TSA to obtain quicker access to the privacy impact assessments related to the enhanced Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II). A 2002 e-government law requires TSA to publish the privacy document.

EPIC initially requested the document in August 2003 under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to TSA. But TSA officials said the privacy impact assessment was exempt from that kind of request because it was only a draft document still subject to policymaking decisions. FOIA exempts documents from disclosure if an agency is still deliberating on its policies.

EPIC argued that TSA must have arrived at some conclusion because the agency published a Privacy Act notice on CAPPS II in the Federal Register on Aug. 1, 2003. The agency characterized it as "an interim final" notice and called for related comments.

The notice described some basic parameters of the CAPPS II program, such as its purpose, how the system would be used, categories of records within the system, system safeguards, how the information would be retained and eliminated, and how individuals could access the information and correct mistakes in it.

For the most part, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed with TSA that the information EPIC sought is exempt from FOIA because of ongoing decision-making about CAPPS II. But she said some information in the document, such as basic facts and items that already have been decided, is not exempt from disclosure.

TSA had argued that it is impossible to separate those items from the rest of the document. Kollar-Kotelly rejected that argument.

Instead, she said because the court was not checking up on TSA by examining the document itself, TSA must provide the court and EPIC with a detailed analysis of which portions it does not intend to make public.

EPIC general counsel David Sobel said the information that could be disclosed as a result of the process could be useful, despite a claim by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the passenger-screening system is being scrapped.

Sobel noted that TSA is required by law to create some sort of updated passenger-profiling system and that any information produced now could help in assessing the privacy impact of future profiling projects.

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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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