Saturday, September 22, 2007


U.S. Airport Screeners Are Watching What You Read

International travelers concerned about being labeled a terrorist or drug runner by secret Homeland Security algorithms may want to be careful what books they read on the plane. Newly revealed records show the government is storing such information for years.

Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore's choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he'd packed for the trip.

The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government's screening program at the border is actually a "surveillance dragnet," according to the group's spokesman Bill Scannell.
"There is so much sensitive information in the documents that it is clear that Homeland Security is not playing straight with the American people," Scannell said.
Footnote: It is this sort of thing that made me decide to fly to London for the Man Booker Awards via Asia rather than thru the U.S. The attitude of the security people at L.A. when we passed through last month puts me off ever wanting to use LAX again. A place to be avoided at all costs.

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