The Department of Homeland Security is creating a computerized data base called a watchlist. It does not tell people when or why their names were added. How can you know how to get off the list?
This data base will be shared with the FBI, which has its own list.
The DHS wants partial exemption from the Privacy Act. Officially, the Privacy Act was supposed to prevent just this sort of thing.
It turns out that the DHS already has four data bases.
This newly proposed DHS Watchlist Service will combine four different DHS systems of records including the TSA-managed Transportation Security Threat Assessment System and TSA’s Secure Flight Records, Treasury Enforcement Communication System (TECS) managed by Custom and Border Protection (CBP) Passenger Systems Program Office, and IDENT, which is managed by the US-VISIT Program. In case you were unaware, according to the July 13th testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, the US-VISIT’s IDENT is “fully interoperable” with the FBI’s “10-fingerprint-based” identity system to run against the watchlist and the “FBI’s entire criminal master file of over 69 million identities in near real time.”
Got that? It has 69 million names. There seem to be a lot of potential criminals out there. How can the government monitor 69 million people? Answer: with more investigating.
A coalition of privacy groups is protesting. One of them is EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The statement filed by EPIC and the other privacy and civil right groups , points out that DHS has admitted that it “does not control the accuracy of the information in system of records” and that “individuals do not have an opportunity to decline to provide information.” Additionally, the DHS Watchlist Service attempts to circumvent privacy protections established by the Privacy Act. Congress previously found that “the privacy of an individual is directly affected by the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personal information by Federal agencies. Congress also emphasized that “the right to privacy is a personal and fundamental right protected by the Constitution of the United States.”
The 1974 Privacy Act requires that cirizens be informed when their names go onto the lists. They are to be given a way to get their names removed. The present DHS program does not do either. Its proposed exemptions never expire.
The year, the number of names on the no-fly and terrorist list doubles. At some point, we will all be on it. “By 2023, the watch list will actually exceed the population of the entire earth – at which point one can speculate that the government of the U.S. will restrict all air travel.”
The trend is clear: mission creep. Everyone will be a suspect. Everyone will be on some list. Once on, we will not get off.