New CAPPS-II Lawsuit


A fresh legal challenge to CAPPS-II is filed in District Court in Alaska today. Excerpts from the Reuters report:

Four residents of Alaska, where airplanes often serve as the only link between far-flung towns and villages, announced plans to sue the U.S. government on Monday over a passenger-screening system that they say violates their privacy.
Air travel is a necessity in Alaska, where many towns are not reachable by road or boat, and plaintiffs said they should not be forced to undergo a government investigation every time they get on a plane.
The lawsuit does not challenge CAPPS II directly. Instead, it seeks to force the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to notify the public when it requires airlines to hand over passenger data.

Attorney James Harrison, who represents the four plaintiffs, said that would allow privacy advocates to file further legal challenges.

"What I'm really doing is playing bird dog to flush this sucker up into the air so everyone can see it," he said.
TSA officials had originally hoped to have the system up and running by early 2004, but have been unable to test the system due to airlines' reluctance to cooperate.

Delta Air Lines Inc. pulled out of a pilot program last spring after a threatened boycott, while Northwest Airlines Corp. and JetBlue Airways Corp. have been hit with class-action suits following revelations that they secretly gave passenger data to researchers.

TSA Acting Administrator David Stone told Congress in March that he would file a secret order known as a security directive to force the airlines to give up their passenger lists, a tactic that would provide some protection from further suits.
Security directives may be appropriate in cases where the government is dealing with classified information but the TSA is using the process to avoid public scrutiny, Harrison said.

Alaska Freedom is a Web site dedicated to information about the suit.