TSA Work Sloppy, but Not Illegal

By Ryan Singel

02:00 AM Mar. 26, 2005 PT

Homeland Security officials failed to keep millions of airline passenger records secure and repeatedly made false denials of their involvement in data transfers to the media and Congress, but they did not violate federal law, according to a report released Friday.

The report (.pdf) by acting Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner found that the Transportation Security Administration was involved in 14 different data transfers totaling more than 20 million records in 2002 and 2003.

The report describes an array of data dumps from airlines to TSA contractors and paints a picture of an agency unable to keep track of its own operations, leading to false denials of data transfers to the media and inaccurate sworn testimony to the Senate.

However, the department did not violate the Privacy Act, which prohibits secret databases on Americans, since the agency used the records in bulk and did not look up individuals by name, according to the report.

Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways and American, Frontier, Continental and America West airlines -- along with three airline record processing firms, all secretly turned over data directly to the TSA and government contractors.

The data included names, addresses, dates of birth, itineraries and credit card numbers.

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