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Simply Boarding a Flight Could Trigger a Secret Government Investigation Into Everyone Onboard

Simply Boarding a Flight Could Trigger a Secret Government Investigation Into Everyone Onboard
Jeff Edwards

Testimony before Congress made brief mention of a government program that some say could result in a secret investigation of every passenger on targeted flights.

Kingfishers are a group of brightly plumed birds that while renowned for their fishing prowess are more likely to subsist on a diet of insects. The mysterious government program known as Kingfisher shares a similar misconception about its hunting habits with its namesake bird.

Gawker’s Phase Zero first reported that testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday exposed through a brief mention, a secret program known as Kingfisher. The article contends that the fleeting mention of the Kingfisher Expansion program confirms the existence of a U.S. government policy which allows officials to investigate U.S. citizens just because they happened to share a flight with a passenger identified as a potential security threat.

There is no reason to dispute the assertion that sharing a flight with a suspected terrorist might earn innocent passengers further scrutiny from investigators. The article notes correctly that hijackers responsible for the September 11 attacks sat apart from each other when flying in an attempt to avoid suspicion.

The notion, however that the Kingfisher Expansion is a secret government program is dubious. If the Kingfisher Expansion is meant to be a government secret, it is an extraordinarily poorly kept secret.

In written testimony to Congress in November of 2013, then acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Wagner highlighted the Kingfisher expansion as a tool for monitoring visa holders arriving and staying in the country.

“NCTC’s Kingfisher Expansion program conducts recurrent vetting by continuously comparing visa applicant biographic data against NCTC’s classified holdings,” Wagner said of the program.

The Kingfisher program, in fact, seems to comport directly with the National Counter Terrorism Center’s (NCTC) published mission. In its vague mission statement, the agency, using language remarkably similar to that used to describe the Kingfisher expansion, promises to “Lead our nation’s effort to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort.”

The latest heavily redacted Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) published by the NCTC which outlines the privacy protections put in place by the agency, however, makes no mention whatsoever of the Kingfisher Expansion program.

[Photo: iStock]

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