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LA Times op-ed: How far does the new 'Secure Flight' program go?

LA Times op-ed: How far does the new 'Secure Flight' program go?

Old Oct 19, 07, 2:22 am
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LA Times op-ed: How far does the new 'Secure Flight' program go?

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Under Homeland Security's 'Secure Flight,' your union card or
reading preferences could help keep you off a plane.


Don't look now -- by which, of course, I mean do look now.

Look at all the ink and airtime lavished on the titillating stories about Southwest Airlines threatening to boot a couple of passengers off flights unless they tidied up their ensembles. A student/Hooters waitress had to tug her miniskirt down and pull up her neckline, and a man flying home to Florida had to turn his T-shirt inside out to hide its "Master Baiter" joke tackle-shop logo.

While we were all getting some giggles out of that, the Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration have been going ahead with something that could keep a lot of blameless people off planes, no matter what they're wearing, and might fill up dossiers with stuff they have no business knowing. Never mind cleavage top or bottom: Someone may be taking note of what we do in the sack, who we travel with, what we read and whether we belong to a union.

"Secure Flight" is the latest remake of a TSA program that's undergone as many changes as Britney's hair. This time it would, among other things, make it the government's job -- not the airlines' -- to check passengers' names against watch lists and then clear them to check in and travel.

Haven't heard of Secure Flight? That's the way they like it in D.C. But some of the people who do know about it are not pleased.

Canadians are peeved: Some airline flights that merely fly over the United States, without so much as touching a wheel to U.S. soil, would have to fork over more information about passengers, and do it as much as three days before the flights take off. Canada already worked with the U.S. to craft its own no-fly list and security policies. "What's the point of this cooperative approach if our list isn't deemed to be good enough for the United States?" asked Air Transport Assn. of Canada Vice President Fred Gaspar.

The AFL-CIO is peeved: A July 26 letter from Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to the head of the Council of the European Union raised alarms. Detailing new air safety policies, Chertoff outlined privacy safeguards for any personal data about EU passengers that reveal "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership and data concerning the health or sex life of the individual." Since when is union membership -- not to mention the sex lives of French, Dutch, British or Italian tourists -- a terrorist risk factor?
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