Security and privacy are the guiding principles behind the Transportation Security Administration's latest effort to find foreign terrorists before they board U.S. aircraft.
The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening Program, or CAPPS II, will be a carefully limited system designed to safeguard the privacy rights of Americans even as it roots out foreign terrorists or their supporters who attempt to fly.
The new program will, in under five seconds, confirm a passenger's identity and score his potential terrorism-related threat to aviation. The vast majority of passengers will score "green" and need only normal screening, sharply reducing additional screening at the security checkpoint. A small percentage of passengers who score "yellow" will need additional scrutiny. A very few of the 2-million passengers who fly each day will score "red," blocking them from flying and drawing the attention of law enforcement officers.
Unless terrorist connections are found, the government will never see or hold data apart from the basic identifying information provided by the passenger. We have, for example, no intention of using Internet-based activity, parking tickets or credit reports to assess someone's risk as a terrorist.
As for privacy rights, consider these safeguards:
First, CAPPS II will not reach to crime computers or bank records. It will survey databases available to every commercial entity in America -- information marketers use every day. Federal privacy laws already limit TSA's access to that information.
Second, it will be a passive system using information provided when a plane ticket is purchased -- full name, home address, date of birth and telephone number -- to quickly confirm identity and conduct a risk assessment. Once the flight is over, the information is discarded.
Third, the system and a privacy strategy are being developed with input from everyone concerned, including privacy advocacy groups.
Bottom line: CAPPS II will dramatically improve aviation security by giving TSA a better tool for keeping foreign terrorists off airplanes. It also will dramatically improve customer service by identifying the vast majority of the traveling public as precisely what they are -- innocent travelers to be processed efficiently and therefore protected when they fly. We pledge to do that while protecting the privacy rights of every American.
-- Adm. James M. Loy, administrator, Transportation Security Administration Department of Homeland Security, Washington
No free ride for illegals
Re: A future out of reach?, March 23.
Saundra Amrhein's article about Felicitas Romo and her family is heartbreaking. But if they are here illegally, what is wrong with deporting them? If they had come in legally and done what was necessary to maintain their citizenship, then this would be a nonstory.
We have millions of children in the United States who are legitimate citizens who are having trouble getting a proper education because so much money is going to educate illegal aliens. Enforce the laws, get them out and make the education dollar go further for the American student whose parents are taxpayers and have a right to the best their money can buy. By allowing illegal aliens into our schools we dilute what we have by having to provide for them as well.
It is a shame she has worked so hard and done all she can to better herself, but it will not be a waste. If she has to go back to Mexico, as she and her family should, her education will put her light years ahead of those her age and give her the advantage over them to be successful in her own country.
If the family works as hard there as here, they should be able to send her to college there as well. If she really wants it, she will have to work for it in Mexico.
Sorry, no more free rides in America for illegal aliens.
-- M. Duane Kridle, Tarpon Springs
Others need help
Re: A future out of reach.
Your reporter could better serve her country and fellow citizens by promoting an American child from a working American family that lives at or below the poverty level and also has "A future out of reach." There are more than enough American families that fall into that category and need help for their children to attend college.
Furthermore, as an American citizen your reporter should have, when first learning of the illegal family in Florida, called the INS and demanded that the entire family be immediately deported. They have already been here 16 illegal years. Shame on her and the INS.
-- Duane H. Lewis, Spring Hill
Re: Iraqi families resign themselves to war -- and its casualties, March 23.
I truly feel sorry for Zainab Salbi's family, but she should not blame the United States but Saddam Hussein, who started this whole thing to begin with. Iraq's people would do well to rise up, en masse, and tell his highness Hussein how they feel about his stubborn foolishness. There is safety in numbers and now is the time to do it.
What is Salbi looking for? Sympathy from your readers? She knows how we feel about this war. Our people are out in droves telling President Bush how they feel. She will not play on my heart strings -- I pray for few losses in lives and peace through the world. She should do the same.
-- Judith M. Stevens, Clearwater
A different kind of Robin
Re: Time for a Robin Hood tax remedy, March 23.
Unfortunately, Martin Dyckman just doesn't get it. The Republicans never understood the story of Robin Hood. They thought the story line was "steal from the poor and give to the rich." Maybe they are the product of our failing public education system. No, that's not right -- they could all afford to go to private school. Doesn't say much for private education, does it?
-- M. Diane Hodson, St. Petersburg
Just like Saudi Arabia
Twenty years ago I applied for a technical job that was advertised in Computerworld. My credentials exactly matched those listed as requirements for the job. A few weeks later I received a reply, thanking me for my interest and stating, "We regret to inform you that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not hire women." I was more amused than enraged because they did not beat around the bush; they discriminate, pure and simple.
Imagine my surprise when I read of a similar incident in Robyn Blumner's March 23 column, Bush sends taxpayer dollars to restrictive religious groups. In this case, a qualified psychological therapist applied for a job at the United Methodist Children's Home in Decatur, Ga. He was told the Children's Home does not hire Jews.
When did we become Saudi Arabia? Why are people not alarmed about this blatant discrimination? If we do not fight to protect our rights, they will be gone quicker than you can say "John Ashcroft."
-- Joan Hutchinson, Tarpon Springs
Church in denial
Re: Forever altered, March 22.
Thank you Stephen Nohlgren and the St. Petersburg Times for this balanced and thought-provoking article. It is encouraging to know that even though these stories are out of the daily news cycle, they are now are part of our legal system. As a Catholic, I have much more faith in the American legal system, than I have in the institutional church.
You pose the question: How could this have gone on for so long? From the wealth of documents that prosecutors are demanding and getting from dioceses around the country, it appears that church leaders knew about the abuse and chose to look the other way. Their protection of pedophile perpetrators makes them perpetuators of their criminal behavior.
As for Chester Gillis' statement in the article that there exists a "culture of denial," I can personally testify to that. When I questioned the pastor of my former parish about how the parish community could best deal with the issues, he said that listening sessions would only bring out the "crazies," and that the scandal was being driven by the media and some money-hungry individuals. I have never been abused, but I found it interesting that he never bothered to ask that question. The clerical culture is still deeply rooted in denial.
-- Linda Morley Perri, Clearwater