The Center for Grassroots Oversight

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2002 and After: Millions of Americans Assigned Terrorism Risk Scores without Their Knowledge

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS)‘s Automated Targeting System begins assigning terrorism risk scores to American and foreign citizens crossing US borders. The scores, generated by government computers, are supposed to approximate the risk that the travelers are terrorists or criminals. They are reportedly based on analysis of travelers’ “travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered,” according to the Associated Press. The government plans to keep these scores on file for 40 years. Travelers are not permitted to challenge, or even see, their risk scores. DHS says the program is “one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world” and insists that without this data the nation’s ability to identify security threats “would be critically impaired.” (Associated Press 11/30/2006; Associated Press 12/1/2006) Critics of the initiative say the program violates the appropriations bill for the agency which prohibits “assigning risk to passengers whose names are not on government watch lists.” (Sniffen 12/7/2006)


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