The AP is reporting:
The Homeland Security Department is breaking the law by not telling the public exactly how personal information is used to screen international travelers, including Americans, congressional investigators said Wednesday.But take a look at the administration's explanation:
Perhaps the AP left something out in Knocke's defense - like any mention of contrary evidence stating the program isn't illegal. Nothing but the statement that the program's the subject of more than "20 speeches" (wow) at hearings.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke defended the program.
"The GAO in this case is woefully uninformed and I think that Congress and the public are being poorly served by this report," Knocke said. This program, he added, "has been the subject of more than 20 speeches or testimonies at hearings."
Which speeches? By which officials? Which hearings? In front of which committees? The AP has an answer for that in the next few paragraphs:
Except for two footnotes to documents sent to Congress, however, the administration's public references primarily described the system as a cargo and passenger screening system without details of its operations. Many officials were only aware of the cargo aspect of the screening system until last fall.This is the Bush Administration, remember. Not the most honest gang out there, doncha know.
Here's the report, by the way. The introduction (pg. 2) opens up an uncomfortable set of issues. Take a look:
A second aviation passenger prescreening effort designed to strengthen the passenger prescreening process is intended to align international passenger prescreening with a similar program (currently under development) for prescreening passengers on domestic flights. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—a separate agency within DHS—is developing a domestic passenger prescreening program called Secure Flight. If CBP’s international prescreening program and TSA’s Secure Flight program are not effectively aligned once Secure Flight becomes operational, this could result in separate implementation requirements for air carriers and increased costs for both air carriers and the government. CBP and TSA officials stated that they are taking steps to coordinate their prescreening efforts, but they have not yet made all key policy decisions.Secure Flight is the DHS' third passenger screening program, by the way. The first, CAPPS, was implemented in the late 1990s and was supposed to be updated in 2003. CAPPS II, as this update was called, was criticized by another GAO report (Feb, 2004) and cancelled that August. There were problems with the program being behind schedule as well as problems with security and oversight. From the conclusion of the report:
In addition to these efforts to strengthen certain international aviation passenger prescreening procedures, one other issue requires consideration in the context of these efforts. This issue involves DHS providing the traveling public with assurances of privacy protection as required by federal privacy law. Federal privacy law requires agencies to inform the public about how the government uses their personal information. Although CBP officials have stated that they have taken and are continuing to take steps to comply with these requirements, the current prescreening process allows passenger information to be used in multiple prescreening procedures and transferred among various CBP prescreening systems in ways that are not fully explained in CBP’s privacy disclosures. If CBP does not issue all appropriate disclosures, the traveling public will not be fully aware of how their personal information is being used during the passenger prescreening process.[Emphasis added]
Of particular concern among the remaining seven issues is the security of both the system and passenger data contained in the system, as well as a means to provide adequate system oversight. Without proper oversight, there is limited assurance that the system and its data will be adequately protected against misuse, and that the system is operating as intended. Additionally, significant risks exist that adequate system testing, particularly to assure that CAPPS II can meet expected load demands, may be shortchanged. An effective risk mitigation strategy for system testing would help assure that system functionality and expected peak loads can be achieved. Lastly, given the concerns regarding the protection of passenger data, the system cannot be fully accepted if it lacks a comprehensive redress process for those who believe they are erroneously labeled as an unknown or unacceptable risk.CAPPS II's replacement is Secure Flight - itself subject to a GAO criticism for a lack of privacy controls.
Yep. That feels about right with this administration. When it's not corrupt, it's incompetant.