- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

At least eight airlines and airline reservation systems gave personal information about millions of passengers to the Transportation Security Administration and its contractors to help test data-mining technology, federal officials said yesterday.

David Stone, TSA’s acting chief administrator, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that in addition to previously disclosed data transfers from American Airlines and JetBlue airlines, agency contractors received data from Delta, Continental, America West and Frontier airlines, and from the Galileo International reservation system.

TSA received personal data from the Sabre reservation system, one of the world’s largest and the system used by most Internet travel sites.

Mr. Stone was before the committee as part of his confirmation hearing to be named the TSA’s permanent chief administrator.

Mr. Stone said no “system of records notice” was prepared by his agency or the contractors. Such a notice generally is required by the Privacy Act, but he said the agency’s legal advisers decided that it was not necessary.

“Since the information was not to be accessed or retrieved by name or personal identifier to make individual determinations, TSA believed that it did not need to publish a system of records notice under the Privacy Act,” he wrote in answers to questions by senators before the hearing.

The news brought condemnation from privacy advocates and lawmakers, who said it raised questions about the legal framework for protecting citizens’ privacy and about the TSA’s commitment to the law.

“The admission follows repeated denials to the public, Congress, General Accounting Office and Department of Homeland Security Privacy Office that the agency had acquired or used real passenger data” to test the technology, said the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The personal data, known as Passenger Name Records or PNR, were used by four contractors working on technology to assess threat levels to airline travelers.

PNRs have dozens of data fields, including the passenger’s name, address and telephone numbers, credit card and frequent-flier details, and dietary requirements — which can reveal religious or ethnic backgrounds.

In May 2002, Mr. Stone told the committee that TSA engaged Lockheed Martin Corp., HNC Software Inc., Infoglide Software Corp. and Ascent Technology Inc. to develop a test for the second-generation Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II — a computerized system that would allocate every traveler a threat rating.

Lawmakers suggested that the news yesterday put a question mark over the future of CAPPS II, which has faced repeated delays and aggressive oversight.

“These revelations cause concern because the information was obtained without any public notice or clear guidelines for protecting the passengers’ privacy,” said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and committee chairman.

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