Civil Liberties

Get'Cher Government Collated Automatic Targeted System's Passengers Screening Program Records Here!

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Sean O'Neill at Yahoo!Travel orders his own government-collated travel records via FOIA, and tells you how to do so as well–though he's not necessarily saying it's worth the trouble,

….unless you've been experiencing a problem crossing our nation's borders. For one thing, the records are a bit dull. In my file, for instance, officials had blacked out the (presumably) most fascinating parts, which were about how officials assessed my risk profile. What's more, the records are mainly limited to information that airline and passport control officials have collected, so you probably won't be surprised by anything you read in them. Lastly, there may be a cost. While there was no charge to me when I requested my records, you might charged a fee of up to $50 if there is difficulty in obtaining your records. Of course, there's a cost to taxpayers and to our nation's security resources whenever a request is filed, too.

Depending on how you feel about the use of "our nation's security resources" on keeping records of your travel, that last point might be feature, not bug. Though it's unlikely a flood of FOIA requests will scare the busybodies straight.

O'Neill also explains how and why the government has these records in the first place. It's all worth remembering, as those halcyon days of 15 years ago when you could get on a plane with nothing but a ticket fade from memory:

The commercial airlines send these passenger records to Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Computers match the information with the databases of federal departments, such as Treasury, Agriculture, and Homeland Security. Computers uncover links between known and previously unidentified terrorists or terrorist suspects, as well as suspicious or irregular travel patterns. Some of this information comes from foreign governments and law enforcement agencies. The data is also crosschecked with American state and local law enforcement agencies, which are tracking persons who have warrants out for their arrest or who are under restraining orders. The data is used not only to fight terrorism but also to prevent and combat acts of organized crime and other illegal activity.

Officials use the information to help decide if a passenger needs to have additional screening. Case in point: After overseas trips, I've stood in lines at U.S. border checkpoints and had my passport swiped and my electronic file examined. A few times, something in my record has prompted officers to pull me over to a side room, where I have been asked additional questions. Sometimes I've had to clarify a missing middle initial. Other times, I have been referred to a secondary examination….

When did this electronic data collection start? In 1999, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (then known as the U.S. Customs Service) began receiving passenger identification information electronically from certain air carriers on a voluntary basis, though some paper records were shared prior to that. A mandatory, automated program began about 6 years ago. Congress funds this Automated Targeting System's Passenger Screening Program to the tune of about $30 million a year.

A Reason magazine classic from Aug/Sept 2003 on John Gilmore's brave but futile attempt to legally challenge the requirement you show I.D. to get on a plane.

NEXT: Bush's Midnight Regulations

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  1. Though it’s unlikely a flood of FOIA requests will scare the busybodies straight.

    Because they keep such meticulous records, or because there is unlikely to be such a flood?

  2. I expect they’d just do as slow and sloppy a job with it as they could manage, and keep spending whatever they had to spend in order to be in enough compliance not to get sued

  3. Off topic:

    Prisoner #6 is finally free.

  4. I expect they’d just do as slow and sloppy a job with it as they could manage, and keep spending whatever they had to spend in order to be in enough compliance not to get sued

    That actually inspired me to have a thought: could a person sue the dept. on the basis that other departments (say, the IRS) are more efficient and punctual, showing that a similar bureaucracy which does not drag its feet is more efficient, hence they must be dragging their feet?

  5. Though it’s unlikely a flood of FOIA requests will scare the busybodies straight

    – they will just pass a law against it

  6. Oh, crap, that sucks about McGoohan. I’ve always been a huge fan–wish he’d done more films. He was great in The Prisoner, Escape from Alcatraz, Braveheart, and (so I’ve heard) Ice Station Zebra. RIP, Number 6.

  7. Indeed, sad news about McGoohan, especially with the shit remake coming up.

    All this data collection including the Patriot Act is more about the drug war than terrorism.

  8. Here’s how good McGoohan was: “Orson Welles was so impressed by McGoohan’s stage presence (‘intimidated,’ Welles said later), Welles cast him as Starbuck in his York theatre production of Moby Dick Rehearsed.”

    I’m not sure many people “intimidated” Orson Welles.

  9. Indeed, sad news about McGoohan, especially with the shit remake coming up.

    What’s with the preemptive hate? It’s got Sir Ian McKellan, so it can’t be all bad!

  10. Obligatory hatred of any redundant remake of a classic. The original is more relevant to 2009 than 1968.

  11. I’m not sure many people “intimidated” Orson Welles.

    Rita Hayworth?

    What’s with the preemptive hate? It’s got Sir Ian McKellan, so it can’t be all bad!

    Because preemptive hate is the vastly safer bet.

  12. “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”

    I can’t imagine new one will be allowed to be a statement on the nightmarish inhumanity of the ultra-bureaucratic state. It’s got lame Gitmo allegory written all over it.

  13. I’m prepared to like Ian McKellan’s acting.

  14. Let’s also not forget Iron Maiden’s tribute to The Prisoner.

  15. Obligatory hatred of any redundant remake of a classic.

    As reflexive purgation, I can understand.

    The original is more relevant to 2009 than 1968.

    Fucking A.

    Because preemptive hate is the vastly safer bet.

    I’m a degenerate optimist.

  16. OT: On the subject of Orson Welles

    If you have not seen it, google “Orson Welles champaign” and watch the associated YouTube video. I can’t get to it to link because YouTube is not accessible to me at the moment.

    Anyway, it’s highly recommended

  17. I’m a degenerate optimist.

    “You’re all a bunch of degenerates.”

    We are? What about that time I found you naked with that bowl of Jell-O?”

  18. wow
    *champagne

  19. Incidentally, I fully expect Number 6 to be on the cover of Reason soon, with an article about The Village. McGoohan deserves that for The Prisoner.

    Is Obama the new Number 2?

    Be seeing you!

  20. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to embrace it – McKellan as you say, plus AMC is involved instead of Hollywood. But the more I read, the more it seemed the new guys don’t have a clue. I have a feeling this new one is going to look really dated 5-10 years from now.

    http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2009/01/the-prisoner-re.html

  21. It could be good, but it certainly won’t be The Prisoner.

  22. I personally find it to be a crapshoot as far as remakes and reboots go. One can line up some really
    fantastic ones (Galactica, new Batman, Scarface)
    decent ones (Dune, Italian Job, Manchurian Candidate)
    mediocre ones (Planet of the Apes, Lathe of Heaven, The Birdcage)
    abominations (City of Angels, Flubber, Meet Joe Black)

    So far as I can tell, there’s really no way to know where one will fall beforehand.

  23. I liked the first The Lathe of Heaven quite a bit, but I always thought it was made for my personal consumption alone–i.e., that no one else ever saw it.

    By the way, the remake of Planet of the Apes was and is an abomination. In fact, don’t mention it again.

  24. By the way, the remake of Planet of the Apes was and is an abomination.

    Oh, c’mon. Marky Mark and monkeys? What’s not to love?

  25. Marky Mark and monkeys? What’s not to love?

    It was too hard to tell them apart, for one thing.

  26. I liked the first The Lathe of Heaven quite a bit, but I always thought it was made for my personal consumption alone–i.e., that no one else ever saw it.

    Heh. No one is ever truly alone. Creepy, when you think about it. Man, the Lukas Haas/James Caan remake pissed me off.

    By the way, the remake of Planet of the Apes was and is an abomination. In fact, don’t mention it again.

    Oh come on. It was fine until about the last ten minutes. There are many fine movies ruined by the last few minutes; I tend not to hold it against them too much (especially since endings are the part that the producers and executives meddle with the most).

  27. Oh come on. It was fine until about the last ten minutes.

    No.

  28. fuckin, YIKES. creeping surveillance state wherever we look.

  29. No.

    Very well. Everyone gets one that they can be illogically bitchy about.

  30. No, it really sucked. And I like Tim Roth, Helena “John” Bonham Carter, and Charlton Heston. In addition, I like several Tim Burton films. Just not this pox on the ass of filmmaking.

  31. Everyone gets one that they can be illogically bitchy about.

    I’m illogically bitchy about only getting one to be illogically bitchy about.

  32. Good thing that a president who will only use these new powers for advancing the cause and not for his own ends will be taking office Tuesday.

  33. I’m illogically bitchy about only getting one to be illogically bitchy about.

    I’m illogically bitchy about people illogically bitching about only getting one to be illogically bitchy about.

    The question becomes, can you quine the fucker?

  34. can you quine the fucker

    I can, but you’d probably be a sicko and film me doing it for your future onanistic pleasure.

  35. I don’t even get why anyone would want to remake Planet of the Apes. Or allow it to be redone. If Burton had followed the book or something, which is a completely different story, or made a new movie called, Planet of the Six-Foot Squirrels, well, maybe. Probably not, but maybe.

  36. Oh come on. It was fine until about the last ten minutes.

    Sorry, no. I love a lot of Tim Burton’s work but I know when directors I like have lost their touch. POTA was the tipping point. For Romero, it was Bruiser.

    Maybe I’ll watch Ed Wood later.

  37. For Romero, it was Bruiser.

    Agreed. The only thing good about Bruiser is that hot chick from Boomtown who let her sweater puppies out for a walk. And they weren’t that great.

  38. Okay, you guys, I need help writing a follow-up to my last paper. (Which you guys helped me get an A on, thanks! 🙂 )

    Here’s a rough version of my questions and stuff.

    Do you think civil liberties will increase or change with an Obama presidency?

    How do you think Obama’s new stimulus can be combined with better regulation to get us back on the right track?

  39. Cesar, is that you?

  40. I can, but you’d probably be a sicko and film me doing it for your future onanistic pleasure.

    I was unaware that quining could be a visual activity. But if it were, you are right, I’d have to film it for my personal viewing pleasure.

  41. I was unaware that quining could be a visual activity.

    Dilettante.

  42. Well, I have seen Quine’s Paradox produce visual phenomena in students, so there’s that.

    “Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation” yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation.

    [Sound of heads popping and eyes bleeding]

    “What?”

  43. I used the “All Cretans are liars, I am a Cretan” line in class once and someone called me bigoted toward Christians. I still have never really figured that one out.

  44. Crete died for your sins, SugarFree.

  45. I love wikipedia. Crete is one of the sites where dwarf elephant fossils have been found.

    I would so have a dwarf elephant. I’d teach it to spray water on my enemies.

  46. I used the “All Cretans are liars, I am a Cretan” line in class once and someone called me bigoted toward Christians. I still have never really figured that one out.

    Heh. I T/Aed under a particularly evil professor, where we were teaching a class on inductive logic for the entire semester (mostly to students that have never taken philosophy before), and then in the last week we laid Hume’s Problem of Induction on them.

    They were not happy.

    “You mean, everything we just did was useless?!”

    -…Um, yeah. Sorry about that…

  47. Consign it then to the flames: For it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

  48. I used the “All Cretans are liars, I am a Cretan” line in class once and someone called me bigoted toward Christians. I still have never really figured that one out.

    Reminds me of when some city boy wanted to park my Jeep for me in Manhattan. When I was having dinner with some of the 2600/Off the Hook guys (I was there for a HOPE con.) I used the term “urban urchin” for the urban dwelling person and some pc 2600 freak piped up with “you can take your racism someplace else”.

  49. Urban rabble is the preferred term.

  50. I would so have a dwarf elephant. I’d teach it to spray water on my enemies.

    Good news: under Obama everybody gets a dwarf elephant.

    Bad news: It was supposed to be a unicorn but it was adjusted to an acceptable substitute by the Executive Unicorn Study Panel.

    Note: This will be signed before the G’tmo order on Tuesday.

  51. PL,

    Urban rabble is the preferred term.

    Typically, yes but he was without requisite pitchfork and torch. He much more resembled a human hedgehog of the pale Eastern European variety.

  52. Ah. He was offended that you didn’t say hoi polloi.

  53. Bad news: It was supposed to be a unicorn but it was adjusted to an acceptable substitute by the Executive Unicorn Study Panel.

    I’d take a dwarf elephant over a unicorn any day. Elephants can learn tricks. All unicorns have is fucking candy mountain.

  54. PL,

    But I don’t know how to say that in real and can never remember how to write it for the intertubes either. I think you are the only other person besides Christopher Hitchens I have seen write it in a few years.

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