The Transportation Security Administration is expanding screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that include records like car registrations and employment information, the New York Times reports. The agency says the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk. The new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers' data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the country.
The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents TSA released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals' data. The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger's name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler's passport number and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. “The best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck of the Identity Project, which opposes the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”