Should Business Or Government Do Our Terrorist Screening? - InformationWeek

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8/13/2007
01:35 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Should Business Or Government Do Our Terrorist Screening?

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, there's been a question of how big a role businesses such as airlines and banks should play in helping to identify terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security's headed in the right direction in wanting to take passenger screening over from the airlines.

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, there's been a question of how big a role businesses such as airlines and banks should play in helping to identify terrorists. The Department of Homeland Security's headed in the right direction in wanting to take passenger screening over from the airlines.Late last week, the Department of Homeland Security proposed that it begin doing the screening of passenger names against the government's terrorist watch list database. Today, DHS sends the watch list to airlines, and they do the screening. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, speaking at a news conference, suggested he wasn't satisfied that airlines are consistent enough in how they update their lists. "If they're slow, or if they do it once a day or more slowly than that, they're going to be more out of date," Chertoff said. "This gives us a much closer connection to the real-time information."

This move is part of Chertoff's effort to implement DHS's Secure Flight program, a passenger screening project that's been marred by privacy mistakes and technical obstacles. He proposes the Transportation Security Administration start screening tests this fall using data from air carriers that volunteer to provide it. In another new regulation announced at the same time, DHS will require airlines provide the TSA with passenger data for all international flights in or out of the U.S. a half hour before a plane takes off. DHS will integrate that system into Secure Flight.

It seems to me that Chertoff's heading in the right direction. Secure Flight's had its missteps, with privacy problems foremost among them. Chertoff says the data will be checked against the watch list and "disposed of." Those privacy concerns are a place to watch. And any CIO who has to meet data-sharing requirements with the government knows integration can be difficult, and costly. But ultimately it's the federal government, not the airlines, that should be combing passenger lists for terrorists.

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