GAO vs. Secure Flight

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) gives poor marks to the Transportation Security Administration's Secure Flight program; the American Civil Liberties Union cheers. From the ACLU press release:

TSA was expected to launch Secure Flight in August. However, the GAO report shows that this program is behind schedule, that its core components—such as the ability to match airline data against watch lists and the reliability of those watch lists—remain uncertain, its privacy impact cannot be determined, and that its ultimate financial cost has not been calculated.

The GAO noted that TSA has not addressed the identity theft problem….

Other key concerns that the GAO is reporting remain unaddressed are:

*The use of PNR data to check against watch lists to determine who is a threat.
*The accuracy of the terrorists watch lists "has not been fully determined."
*TSA has not yet fully examined the privacy impacts of Secure Flight.
The current report comes on the heels of a February GAO report focused solely on Secure Flight's use of commercial databases such as ChoicePoint. In that report, the GAO found that the TSA had not developed successful measures by which to judge the performance of those commercial databases.

Just Friday, the TSA's own inspector general reported that the agency had deceived the public about its role in gathering the personal data of around 12 million air travelers to test Secure Flight. That finding only further proves that the agency is not capable of protecting and respecting privacy. That report found that the public, the media—even Congress which has oversight of the TSA—were all kept in the dark about this gross abuse of government power.

While the ACLU's press release seems to think this GAO report "effectively put a halt" to Secure Flight, my skimming of the very long GAO report sees no signs of this–they are merely listing areas where TSA is going to have to work harder to get the program up to speed, filled with bureaucratic language about "finalizing procedures" and "developing results-oriented performance goals," not calling for death to the whole sorry mess.

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