Thank God Google's Dumping Press Releases... | Main | The New Canon

April 10, 2003

Secret Anti-Terrorist Sauce

Posted by Mike on April 10, 2003 4:18 PM

Salon's taken the time to explain what CAPPS II is (beyond "the new credit check/anti-terrorist record check the airlines are doing"):

"When you check in to a flight, the system will feed in your name, address, telephone number and date of birth -- information that airlines already have about each passenger -- into a commercial database. This step would try to determine whether 'you are who you say you are,' Rosenker says. The computer could get from these databases the same sort of information that many businesses easily have access to -- your known addresses, your employer, whether you own or rent your home, that kind of thing. Rosenker says that CAPPS II will analyze this information to check that you're 'rooted in the community,' meaning 'that you routinely are where you say you are.'

"Rosenker describes CAPPS II as being a kind of progressive system -- it would scan as few databases as it needs to determine that someone checks out. 'If every single commercial database says, yes, there's a Farhad Manjoo with this address and this date of birth and this phone number, the system says you're OK. What this allows us to do is not complicate the lives of people who don't need more checking.' On the other hand, she says, 'if it comes up that this person has only been living here for four months and there's no sign of him before that, then we'd need to go to the next level of identification.'

"This next level would check law-enforcement databases to determine whether you're on a watch list or, 'if need be, your behavioral patterns,' she says. 'But that's only if need be -- and you don't need to do the same degree of testing for every person.'

"This last test of behavioral patterns is the most mysterious thing about the system. The TSA won't say what kind of behavioral patterns it means, because if terrorists find out what the agency is looking for, they'll change their behavior."