Panel offers framework for airline passenger pre-screening plan
Panel says Homeland Security Department should narrowly focus Secure Flight program.
As the Homeland Security Department finalizes a contentious program to pre-screen airline passengers, an advisory committee on Tuesday provided the department with a framework for the initiative.
The Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee said the department should narrowly focus the pre-screening program known as Secure Flight. The committee advised the department to require a passenger's name and date of birth, and airlines should verify a traveler's identity through two government databases. The group said the program should not be expanded to commercial databases.
Collecting passengers' personal information and protecting the data is at the crux of the debate over the program between policymakers and privacy and civil rights advocates. The American Civil Liberties Union repeatedly has called on the Homeland Security Department to eliminate the program.
The advisory panel on Tuesday said the Transportation Security Administration, which runs the program, has yet to fully define Secure Flight. The committee submitted several recommendations for its future deployment.
Beyond limiting the scope of the initiative, the panel said TSA should create transparent processes for Secure Flight. "Recognizing that security concerns limit the disclosure of some operational details, the [Transportation Security Administration] should specify what information Secure Flight will use and how it will handle that information," read the advisory panel's report.
The panel added that TSA must provide an effective process for passengers who have been wrongly delayed or prohibited from boarding a flight. "The determination and any resulting corrections must be made in a timely manner and corrections must be rapidly disseminated throughout the Secure Flight system," it said.
Lawmakers in September decided to provide less funding for the Secure Flight program than outlined earlier this year because TSA has not provided a fully justified cost estimate to Congress. The agency also has not set up the program with two airlines as originally proposed.
It also directed the Government Accountability Office to keep monitoring TSA to make sure Secure Flight meets the 10 criteria that appropriators set for it in fiscal 2005.
Meanwhile, Homeland's acting chief privacy officer, Maureen Cooney, outlined the office's goals over the next year during Tuesday's advisory meeting. She said the privacy office would issue final guidelines for the government's use of data as well as reports on Secure Flight and government databases, among other objectives.