New Battle Brews Over Air Passenger Information


The Homeland Security Department is making another push to get personal data on airline passengers in an effort to keep terrorists off flights, reports USA Today. The lobbying effort comes months after the House and Senate, concerned about invading privacy, gave preliminary approval to a measure that would ban the department from tapping into credit reports, court files, shopping histories and other personal information for one year.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff wants Congress to scrap the pending ban so the government can make passenger information “more complete and accurate” when it compares names with those of suspected terrorists, according to department spokesman Russ Knocke. Chertoff is likely to face a tough battle in Congress. The ban has the support of key members of both political parties. Passenger names are now checked by airlines against a government no-fly list, which excludes classified information about terrorists. Since early 2003, Homeland Security officials have sought to take over the process and add in-depth passenger background checks. The idea has sparked outrage from privacy advocates.


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