USA tracks information on travelers

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Saturday, December 2, 2006

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Media attention about a little noticed and month-old U.S. Department of Homeland Security report that international airline travelers in-and-out of the U.S. were being tracked via an Automated Targeting System (ATS) has drawn renewed interest.

The database system, started four years ago, accumulates information on overseas travelers and assigns a "terrorist risk rank" to each individual. Such information may include nationality, flight patterns, motor vehicle driving records, and so on. Because ATS is exempt from many provisions of the U.S. Privacy Act, travelers cannot view or question their own rating.

The governmental branch, Customs and Border Patrol, is responsible for administration of the Automated Targeting System-Passenger (ATS-P). The ATS-P received $28.3 million in funding this fiscal year, up $2.4 million from the previous year. The additional funding will be used to, "incorporate additional government and non-government databases for risk analysis utilizing ATS-P's rules based analysis" according to the Homeland Security 2006 fiscal year report.

International co-operation sought by the U.S. from European Union member states for information sharing on EU travelers was found to be illegal by the European Court of Justice in June this year. But a previously struck sharing agreement, dating from May 2004 between EU airlines and the U.S. became locked in legal complications. Maneuvering by the European Parliament rendered the court's ruling void.

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