Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented U.S. Effort More Extensive Than Previously Known
By Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, September 22, 2007; Page A01
The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.
The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the records, which are analyzed by the department’s Automated Targeting System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from innocent people entering the country.
But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.
The Automated Targeting System has been used to screen passengers since the mid-1990s, but the collection of data for it has been greatly expanded and automated since 2002, according to former DHS officials.
Officials yesterday defended the retention of highly personal data on travelers not involved in or linked to any violations of the law. But civil liberties advocates have alleged that the type of information preserved by the department raises alarms about the government’s ability to intrude into the lives of ordinary people. The millions of travelers whose records are kept by the government are generally unaware of what their records say, and the government has not created an effective mechanism for reviewing the data and correcting any errors, activists said.
The activists alleged that the data collection effort, as carried out now, violates the Privacy Act, which bars the gathering of data related to Americans’ exercise of their First Amendment rights, such as their choice of reading material or persons with whom to associate. They also expressed concern that such personal data could one day be used to impede their right to travel.
“The federal government is trying to build a surveillance society,” said John Gilmore, a civil liberties activist in San Francisco whose records were requested by the Identity Project, an ad-hoc group of privacy advocates in California and Alaska. The government, he said, “may be doing it with the best or worst of intentions. . . . But the job of building a surveillance database and populating it with information about us is happening largely without our awareness and without our consent.”
Gilmore’s file, which he provided to The Washington Post, included a note from a Customs and Border Patrol officer that he carried the marijuana-related book “Drugs and Your Rights.” “My first reaction was I kind of expected it,” Gilmore said. “My second reaction was, that’s illegal.”
DHS officials said this week that the government is not interested in passengers’ reading habits, that the program is transparent, and that it affords redress for travelers who are inappropriately stymied. “I flatly reject the premise that the department is interested in what travelers are reading,” DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. “We are completely uninterested in the latest Tom Clancy novel that the traveler may be reading.”
This is of course, a bald faced lie; if they are not interested in what a person is reading, then they would not collect data on the titles of books that you are carrying with you when you travel.
These people are so thick that they cannot even come up with a plausible lie to tell, they just come up with insane non-sequiturs like, “we are not interested in it, thats why we do it”.
As loath as I am to help out the perpetrators of this utter evil and the de destroyers of the american way of life, I have to point out a single reason that a skilled liar might give for the retention of a list of books people are carrying into the USA.
Hell-spawn Chertoff could assert in terror movie plot style that they need to keep a list of books people are carrying because section of the text from these books might be used as One Time Pads to decrypt messages sent by OBL from his secret mountain lair.
It would go like this:
“NSA needs to have a list of all books being carried with travelers so that they can load their 25 million CPU supercomputer under mount Rushmore with the texts of all these books and then run them brute force against all classified ads, Numbers Station transmissions and every other possible source of encrypted messages.”
There you have it. And there are some people in the USA who would willingly drink that Kool-Aid and then preach it like religion, and there are millions more who would subsequently believe it unquestioningly, and then conveniently forget that it ever happened a year or two down the road.
The fact that traitors like Chertoff do not bother to come up with lies like that, which whilst being improbable are at least open to sound bite debate, shows just how sure they are that they are going to take over the usa and grind it into dust.
Back to the gist; RFID tags in books and other property will make this sort of association of objects to people much easer. They will (or do they right now?) then keep a list of ‘bad books’ or ‘suspicious literature’ any of which will cause you to be flagged should you buy them or be detected carrying them.
And if you think that avoiding the land of the great satan will keep you out of their databases:
Ann Harrison, the communications director for a technology firm in Silicon Valley who was among those who obtained their personal files and provided them to The Post, said she was taken aback to see that her dossier contained data on her race and on a European flight that did not begin or end in the United States or connect to a U.S.-bound flight.
“It was surprising that they were gathering so much information without my knowledge on my travel activities, and it was distressing to me that this information was being gathered in violation of the law,” she said.
James P. Harrison, director of the Identity Project and Ann Harrison’s brother, obtained government records that contained another sister’s phone number in Tokyo as an emergency contact. “So my sister’s phone number ends up being in a government database,” he said. “This is a lot more than just saying who you are, your date of birth.”
Edward Hasbrouck, a civil liberties activist who was a travel agent for more than 15 years, said that his file contained coding that reflected his plan to fly with another individual. In fact, Hasbrouck wound up not flying with that person, but the record, which can be linked to the other passenger’s name, remained in the system. “The Automated Targeting System,” Hasbrouck alleged, “is the largest system of government dossiers of individual Americans’ personal activities that the government has ever created.”
And finally, from the bug-eyed beelzebub pocket devil Chertoff:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in August 2006 said that “if we learned anything from Sept. 11, 2001, it is that we need to be better at connecting the dots of terrorist-related information. After Sept. 11, we used credit-card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers. But wouldn’t it be better to identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane?”
What ‘we learned’ you little devil, is that america is as vulnerable as any county is to being dismantled from the insiede and all it takes is a few evil and intelligent traitors to pull it off.
Furthermore, and stepping forward into the frame, what you should have learned (by now) is that there is a consequence to killing people in foreign countries (Vietnam). There is a consequence to imposing regimes on people (Iran, Operation AJAX) interfering with other peoples anything.
Now, with everyone running from the dollar like it is the plague, and the chinese threatening to destroy america without firing a shot, the american government is finally and literally going to pay for all the evil it has done, and the american people are very sadly going to pay for the evil that they have allowed to happen and which they have explicitly endorsed with their votes; remember this is all is entirely the fault of the voting public, who returned a war criminal to office, and who seem to be resisting the only man who can save America (with a capital ‘A’).
Once again. If there is one country on this earth that can turn such a disaster around it is the US of A.
They can be a great people…they wish to be.