WASHINGTON - February 13 - A bipartisan group of twenty-two Members of Congress, led by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), today, sent a letter to the Acting Administrator of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) raising serious concerns over the Administration's proposed Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II).
According to the Administration, CAPPS II is intended to provide a more thorough approach to screening passengers, thereby increasing aviation security. Yet, both Congress and the General Accounting Office (GAO) have raised serious concerns about the program's infringement on civil liberties.
In the letter to Rear Admiral David M. Stone (Ret.), TSA Administrator, the Members' state:
"While we greatly appreciate the vigilance exhibited by your agency in its attempt to make air travel more secure, we have serious concerns about the effectiveness and powerful dangers this system will pose to the civil rights and liberties of millions of Americans.
"TSA specifically exempts itself from having to publish the 'sources of records' upon which the formula generating a passenger's risk score is based and may add new forms of data without any oversight or public notification. Members of Congress and the public thus have no real assurances that the system will not rely upon medical, religious, political or racial data in the creation of a person's risk assessment.
"Members of Congress and the public also have reason to fear that CAPPS II will eventually be expanded to the further detriment of civil liberties. Former TSA Director Loy explicitly indicated that the agency envisions utilizing CAPPS II at other transportation hubs. If the system is indeed broadened for use in venues such as bus stations, highway toll-booths, or public events, the current proposal for CAPPS II appears to set the initial ground-work for the eventual implementation of a system of internal government checkpoints reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.
"Finally, while the public was initially told CAPPS II would remain confined to searching for foreign terrorists, the program has now been broadened to include domestic terrorists and violent criminals. As a result, one wonders if once implemented, the program will continue to morph into something similar to the Pentagon's 'Total Information Awareness' concept, an over-arching system to monitor all available data sources in search of suspicious patterns of activity. The Congress soundly rejected this proposal.
"New powers granted to government anti-terror initiatives must require that the power is necessary to thwart future attacks, and that the benefit of the new power outweighs its adverse effect on liberty. In its current form, CAPPS II fails both of these requirements. We ask that the program be suspended indefinitely until these serious concerns are addressed"
Joining Kucinich on the letter are Representatives Paul, Kleczka, Conyers, Manzullo, Rangel, Frank, Baldwin, Jackson-Lee, Sanders, Maloney, Serrano, Filner, Farr, Abercrombie, Lee, Woolsey, Stark, Owens, Tubbs Jones, Grijalva and McGovern.