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The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (often abbreviated CAPPS) is a counter-terrorism system in place in the United States air travel industry. The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a watchlist, pursuant to 49 USC § 114 (h)(2)[1], of "individuals known to pose, or suspected of posing, a risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety." The list is used to pre-emptively identify terrorists attempting to buy plane tickets or board planes traveling in the United States, and to mitigate perceived threats.

OverviewEdit

CAPPS systems rely on what is known as a Passenger Name Record, often abbreviated PNR. When a person books a plane ticket, certain identifying information is collected by the airline: full name, address, etc. This information is used to check against some data store (e.g., a TSA No-Fly list, the FBI ten most wanted fugitive list Wikipedia, etc.) and assign a terrorism "risk score" to that person. High risk scores require the airline to subject the person to extended baggage and/or personal screening, and to contact law enforcement if necessary.

CAPPS IEdit

CAPPS I was first implemented in the late 1990s, in response to the perceived threat of U.S. domestic and international terrorism. CAPPS I was administered by the FBI and FAA. CAPPS screening selected passengers for additional screening of their checked baggage for explosives. CAPPS selectees did not undergo any additional screening at passenger security checkpoints.[2]

September 11, 2001, attacksEdit

On September 11, 2001, several of the hijackers were selected by CAPPS. Wail al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami were selected for extra screening of their checked bags, before they boarded American Airlines Flight 11 at Logan International Airport. Waleed al-Shehri was also selected, but since he had checked no bags, CAPPS selection had no effect on him.[2] Mohamed Atta was selected by CAPPS when he checked in at Portland International Jetport.[3]

All of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 were CAPPS selectees, with Hani Hanjour, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Majed Moqed chosen by the CAPPS criteria. Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salem al-Hazmi were selected because they did not provide adequate identification, and had their checked bags held until they boarded the aircraft.[2]

Ahmad al-Haznawi was the only hijacker selected of those on United Airlines Flight 93, and none of the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 175 were selected by CAPPS.[2]

Post 9/11Edit

In November 2001, control was transferred to the TSA, where it has "...expanded almost daily as Intelligence Community (IC) agencies and the Office of Homeland Security continue to request the addition of individuals..." [1]

In 2003, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) presented a proposal for an expanded system (CAPPS II), which was reviewed by Congress and later canceled by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II was a proposal for a new CAPPS system, designed by the Office of National Risk Assessment (ONRA), a subsidiary office of the TSA, with the contracted assistance of Lockheed Martin. Congress presented the TSA with a list of requirements for a successor to CAPPS I. Some of those requirements were:

  • The government, not the airlines, will control and administer the system
  • Every ticketed passenger will be screened, for instance not just those who check bags
  • Every airline and every airport will be covered by the system

Like its predecessor, the CAPPS II proposal would rely on the PNR to uniquely identify people attempting to board aircraft. It would expand the PNR field to include a few extra fields, like a full street address, date of birth, and a home telephone number. It would then cross-reference these fields with government records and private sector databases to ascertain the identity of the person, and then determine a number of details about that person. Law enforcement would be contacted in the event that the person:

  • is present on a terrorist or most-wanted list
  • has outstanding Federal or state arrest warrants for violent crime

Otherwise, the software would calculate a "risk score" and then print a code on the boarding pass indicating the appropriate "screening level" for that person: green (no threat) indicates no additional screening, yellow (unknown or possible threat) indicates additional screening, and red (high risk) indicates no boarding and deferral to law enforcement. How this risk score would be calculated was never disclosed nor subject to public oversight of any kind outside of the TSA.

The system was criticized in a report (pdf) by the U.S. General Accounting Office in early 2004, and faced increased opposition from watchdog groups like the ACLU, ReclaimDemocracy.org, and EPIC. Advocacy groups believed it would undermine both privacy and safety. They expressed concern that the system would be unconstitutional and that terrorists could use it to their advantage.

CAPPS II was cancelled by the TSA in the summer of 2004. Shortly thereafter, the TSA announced a successor program, called Secure Flight, that would work much the same as CAPPS II. TSA hoped to test Secure Flight in August 2005 using two airlines. Secure Flight, has been blocked by Congress until the government can prove that the system can pass 10 tests for accuracy and privacy protection as follows:

Annex I: Legislatively Mandated Secure Flight Issues to be Certified by DHS and Reviewed by GAO

Legislative mandated issue (number and short title) Description of mandated issue

1. Redress process: A system of due process exists whereby aviation passengers determined to pose a threat are either delayed or prohibited from boarding their scheduled flights by TSA may appeal such decisions and correct erroneous information contained in CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs.

2. Accuracy of databases and effectiveness of Secure Flight: The underlying error rate of the government and private databases that will be used to both establish identity and assign a risk level to a passenger will not produce a large number of false positives that will result in a significant number of passengers being treated mistakenly or security resources being diverted.

3. Stress testing: TSA has stress-tested and demonstrated the efficacy and accuracy of all search technologies in CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs and has demonstrated that CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs can make an accurate predictive assessment of those passengers who may constitute a threat to aviation.

4. Internal oversight: The Secretary of Homeland Security has established an internal oversight board to monitor the manner in which CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs are being developed and prepared.

5. Operational safeguards: TSA has built in sufficient operational safeguards to reduce the opportunities for abuse.

6. Security measures: Substantial security measures are in place to protect CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs from unauthorized access by hackers or other intruders.

7. Oversight of system use and operation: TSA has adopted policies establishing effective oversight of the use and operation of the system.

8. Privacy concerns: There are no specific privacy concerns with the technological architecture of the system.

9. Modifications with respect to intrastate travel to accommodate states with unique air transportation needs: TSA has, in accordance with the requirements of section 44903 (j)(2)(B) of title 49, United States Code, modified CAPPS II or Secure Flight or other follow-on/successor programs with respect to intrastate transportation to accommodate states with unique air transportation needs and passengers who might otherwise regularly trigger primary selectee status.

10. Life-cycle cost estimates and expenditure plans: Appropriate life-cycle cost estimates, and expenditure and program plans exist.

TSA expects that Secure Flight will begin operational testing at the end of 2008 for domestic passenger vetting, with full implementation in 2010. TSA is working with DHS to explore ways to efficiently accelerate the schedule to implement the program, as appropriate and within established lifecycle cost estimates.

Surveillance Detection Report (SDR)Edit

On July 21, 2006, TV station ABC 7 in Denver, Colorado released a report, citing air marshals that were using a quota system of reporting one person per month as a requirement for advancement. These reports are filed as Surveillance Detection Reports: it is unclear how many such reports are required on a person to place them on the watch lists.

TimelineEdit

September 6-10, 2001: Suspicious Trading of Put Option Contracts on American and United Airlines Occur

A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard. [Source: Public domain] Suspicious trading occurs on the stock of American and United, the two airlines hijacked in the 9/11 attacks. “Between 6 and 7 September, the Chicago Board Options Exchange [sees] purchases of 4,744 put option contracts [a speculation that the stock will go down] in UAL versus 396 call options—where a speculator bets on a price rising. Holders of the put options would [net] a profit of $5 million once the carrier’s share price [dive] after September 11. On September 10, 4,516 put options in American Airlines, the other airline involved in the hijackings, [are] purchased in Chicago. This compares with a mere 748 call options in American purchased that day. Investigators cannot help but notice that no other airlines [see] such trading in their put options.” One analyst later says, “I saw put-call numbers higher than I’ve ever seen in ten years of following the markets, particularly the options markets.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/18/2001; SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, 9/19/2001] “To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also [learned] that the firm used to buy many of the ‘put’ options… on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by ‘Buzzy’ Krongard, now executive director of the CIA.” Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc., which was bought by Deutsche Bank. “His last post before resigning to take his senior role in the CIA was to head Bankers Trust—Alex Brown’s private client business, dealing with the accounts and investments of wealthy customers around the world.” [INDEPENDENT, 10/14/2001] Entity Tags: Chicago Board Options Exchange, United Airlines, American Airlines, Deutsche Bank, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

5:43 a.m. September 11, 2001: Hijackers Check in at Portland Airport; Atta Becomes Angry with Ticket Agent

Michael Tuohey. [Source: National Geographic] Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check in at the US Airways counter at Portland International Jetport. [PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, 10/5/2001; FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 10/14/2001] They are wearing ties and jackets. Atta checks in two bags, Alomari none. Atta is randomly selected for additional security scrutiny by the FAA’s Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the only consequence is that his checked bags will be held off the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 1; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 2 ; CNN, 3/3/2006] Noting that their flight is soon due to leave, the ticket agent who checks them in, Michael Tuohey, says, “You’re cutting it close.” [PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, 3/6/2005] Tuohey thinks the pair seems unusual. He notices they both have $2,500 first-class, one-way tickets. He later comments, “You don’t see many of those.” Atta looks “like a walking corpse. He looked so angry.” In contrast, Tuohey says, Alomari can barely speak English and has “a goofy smile, I can’t believe he knew he was going to die that day.” Tuohey will later recount, “I thought they looked like two Arab terrorists but then I berated myself for the stereotype and did nothing.” [PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/24/2005; MIRROR, 9/11/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006] Atta becomes angry when Tuohey informs him he will have to check in again in Boston. He complains that he was assured he would have a “one-step check-in.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 2 ; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/7/2005] Tuohey will be recalled to work later in the day to speak to an FBI agent about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. He is shown video footage of them passing through the airport’s security checkpoint upstairs (see (Between 5:45 a.m. and 5:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although recognizing the two men, he notices that in the video they are no longer wearing the jackets and ties they’d had on when checking in just minutes before. He assumes they must have taken these off and tucked them into their carry-on baggage. He is also informed that the security camera behind his own desk, which should have captured the two hijackers, has in fact been out of order for some time. [PORTLAND PRESS HERALD, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006] Entity Tags: Portland International Jetport, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Federal Aviation Administration, Mohamed Atta, Michael Tuohey, Abdulaziz Alomari Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Hijackers Arrive at Airports and Board Flights; Computer Screening Program Fails to Stop Them All the alleged 9/11 hijackers reportedly check in at the airports from where they board Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 1-4; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 27, 89, 93 ] Since 1998, the FAA has required air carriers to implement a program called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). This identifies those passengers who might be a security risk, based upon suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. CAPPS also randomly assigns some passengers to receive additional security scrutiny. If a particular passenger has been designated as a “selectee,” this information is transmitted to the airport’s check-in counter, where a code is printed on their boarding pass. At the airport’s security checkpoints, selectees are subjected to additional security measures. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 4/1/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; US CONGRESS, 3/17/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 2, 85 ] Their baggage is to be screened for explosives or held off the plane until they have boarded. Supposedly, the thinking behind this is that someone smuggling a bomb onto a plane won’t get onto that same flight. According to the 9/11 Commission, nine of the 19 hijackers are flagged by the CAPPS system before boarding Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/28/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 84; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI, A/K/A SHAQIL, A/K/A ABU KHALID AL SAHRAWI, DEFENDANT, 3/6/2006] In addition, Mohamed Atta was selected when he checked in at the airport in Portland, for his earlier connecting flight to Boston (see 5:33 a.m.-5:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). All of the hijackers subsequently pass through security checkpoints before boarding their flights. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 1-4] Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(6:20 a.m.-7:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 175 Hijackers Check In at Airport and Board Plane; None Selected for Additional Security Scrutiny All five Flight 175 hijackers reportedly check in at Boston’s Logan Airport, pass through a security checkpoint, and board their plane during this period. [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 89 ] The FAA has a program in place called CAPPS, which selects passengers for more thorough security screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying a one-way ticket or paying with cash (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although reports claim that between two and five of the Flight 175 hijackers have one-way tickets, none are selected by CAPPS. [WORLDNETDAILY, 4/24/2002; US CONGRESS, 9/26/2002; US CONGRESS, 9/26/2002; WASHINGTON POST, 1/28/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 18 ] Two of them have problems answering security questions at the ticket counter (see (6:20 a.m.-6:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At the security checkpoint, all five would pass through a walk-through metal detector, and an X-ray machine would screen their carry-on luggage. But Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they go through, or how they are processed. Jennifer Gore, the young supervisor overseeing the checkpoint, is later unable to recall seeing any of them. The Globe and Mail will explain, “[S]he was trained to look for metal bits in bags and in clothes, not people.” [GLOBE AND MAIL, 9/7/2002; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 2; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 18 ] Entity Tags: Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Logan Airport, Jennifer Gore, Federal Aviation Administration Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(6:45 a.m.-7:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Three Flight 11 Hijackers Selected for Additional Screening When They Pass through Airport Security During this period, all five Flight 11 hijackers check in at Boston’s Logan Airport and board their plane, bound for Los Angeles. The FAA has a program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS), which is designed to identify those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ticket records will show that CAPPS selects three of the Flight 11 hijackers at Logan: Since Waleed Alshehri checks no bags his selection has no consequences; Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. All five hijackers would need to pass through a security checkpoint to reach the departure gate for their flight. Each would have been screened as they walked through a metal detector calibrated to detect items with at least the metal content of a small-caliber handgun. If they’d set this off, they would have been screened with a handheld metal detector. An X-ray machine would have screened their carry-on luggage. However, Logan Airport has no video surveillance of its security checkpoints (see 1991-2000), so there is no documentary evidence of exactly when they pass through them, or if alarms are triggered. According to the 9/11 Commission, none of the checkpoint supervisors later recall seeing any of the Flights 11 hijackers, or report anything suspicious having occurred. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 1-2; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 5-6 ] However, a WorldNetDaily article will claim that some Logan staff members recall seeing Mohamed Atta (see (6:50 a.m.-7:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WORLDNETDAILY, 9/21/2001] The Boston Globe will later comment, “aviation specialists have said it is unlikely that more rigorous attention to existing rules would have thwarted the 10 hijackers who boarded two jets at Logan on Sept. 11. At the time, the knives and box-cutters they were carrying were permitted.” [BOSTON GLOBE, 10/17/2001] Entity Tags: Satam Al Suqami, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Wail Alshehri, Federal Aviation Administration, Logan Airport, Waleed M. Alshehri Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(7:00 a.m.-7:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Computer Screening Program Selects Some Hijackers; Fails to Stop Them Sometime during this period, the hijackers pass through airport security checkpoints at the various airports. The FAA has a screening program in place called the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS). CAPPS automatically targets passengers for additional screening based on suspicious behavior such as buying one-way tickets or paying with cash. If a passenger is selected, their bags are thoroughly screened for explosives, but their bodies are not searched. [WASHINGTON POST, 1/28/2004] CAPPS selects three of the five Flight 11 hijackers. Since Waleed Alshehri checked no bags, his selection had no consequences. Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami have their bags scanned for explosives, but are not stopped. No Flight 175 hijackers are selected. Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected from Flight 93. His bag is screened for explosives, but he is not stopped. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Alhaznawi and Ahmed Alnami, also headed to Flight 93, have suspicious indicators and that they could have been linked to al-Qaeda upon inspection, but it has not been explained why or how. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; BALTIMORE SUN, 1/27/2004] Screening of the Flight 77 hijackers is described below. Entity Tags: Waleed M. Alshehri, Al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration, Wail Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, Satam Al Suqami, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

(7:03 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 93 Hijackers Check in at Airport and Board Plane; Only One Selected for Additional Screening According to the 9/11 Commission, between 7:03 a.m. and 7:39 a.m. the four alleged Flight 93 hijackers check in at the United Airlines ticket counter at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport. Only Ahmad Alhaznawi is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The only consequence is that his checked bag is screened for explosives, and not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 4; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 35 ] On their way to boarding the plane, all four would pass through a security checkpoint, which has three walk-through metal detectors, two X-ray machines, and explosive trace detection equipment. [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 97 ] The 9/11 Commission later claims Newark Airport has no video cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, so there is no documentary evidence showing when the hijackers passed through the checkpoint or what alarms may have been triggered. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 4; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 35 ] However, Michael Taylor, the president of a security company, who has done consulting work for the New York Port Authority (which operates the airport), claims that Newark does use security cameras at the time of 9/11. [BOSTON HERALD, 9/29/2001] All of the screeners on duty at the checkpoint are subsequently interviewed, and none report anything unusual or suspicious having occurred. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 4; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 35 ] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the passports of Ahmad Alhaznawi and fellow Flight 93 hijacker Ahmed Alnami have suspicious indicators and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not elaborate on this. [BALTIMORE SUN, 1/27/2004] Entity Tags: Ahmed Alnami, Al-Qaeda, Newark International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration, Ahmed Alhaznawi, United Airlines, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(7:15 a.m.-7:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Hijack Suspects Set Off Airport Alarms; Allowed to Board Anyway

Hijackers in a Dulles Airport, Washington, security checkpoint, from left to right: Nawaf Alhazmi gets searched, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge) Around 7:15 a.m., Flight 77 hijackers Majed Moqed and Khalid Almihdhar check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 2-3; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 27 ] The FAA has a computer system in place, called CAPPS, which identifies those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CAPPS selects both men, but the only consequence is that Moqed’s luggage is not loaded onto Flight 77 until after his boarding is confirmed. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 27-28 ] Dulles Airport has surveillance cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, and video later viewed by the 9/11 Commission shows the two passing through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:18 a.m. When they go through, their carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms, but both men set off the alarm when they pass through the first metal detector. They are directed to a second metal detector, where Almihdhar passes, but Moqed fails again. He is subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. This time he is cleared and permitted to pass through the checkpoint. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 3] The other three Flight 77 hijackers pass through the security checkpoint about 20 minutes later (see (7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Almihdhar’s passport was “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [BALTIMORE SUN, 1/27/2004] Entity Tags: Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, American Airlines, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Al-Qaeda, Federal Aviation Administration Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

(7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Remaining Three Flight 77 Hijackers Check In at Airport; Allowed to Board Despite Security Checkpoint Problems

Hijacker brothers Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) pass through security in Dulles Airport in Washington. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge) The 9/11 Commission estimates that Flight 77 hijacker Hani Hanjour checks in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport some time between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. (American Airlines will be unable to locate information confirming his check-in time.) [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 93 ] He is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this has no consequences. The final two Flight 77 hijackers, brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, check in at approximately 7:29 a.m. The customer service representative makes both of them CAPPS selectees, because one of them cannot provide photo identification and seems unable to understand English, and he finds both of them suspicious. However, the only consequence is that Salem Alhazmi’s luggage is not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. Surveillance cameras monitor the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport. According to the 9/11 Commission’s review of security footage, Hani Hanjour passes through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:35 a.m. He proceeds through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, and his two carry-on bags set off no alarms when placed on the X-ray belt. The Alhazmis arrive at the same checkpoint a minute later. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the metal detector, and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors and is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand before being passed. His shoulder bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/27/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 3; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 27-28 ] Immediately after the attacks, when the FAA’s local civil aviation security office investigates the security screening at Dulles on 9/11, it finds the airport’s screeners recall nothing out of the ordinary, and cannot recall any of the passengers they screened having been CAPPS selectees. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 3; 9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 93 ] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Alhazmi brothers’ passports are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [BALTIMORE SUN, 1/27/2004] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Washington Dulles International Airport, Salem Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour, American Airlines, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Aviation Administration Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

December 24, 2005: NSA Wiretap Database Far Larger Than Administration Acknowledges

Chart showing NSA surveillance network. [Source: NSA Watch] (click image to enlarge) The National Security Agency has built a far larger database of information collected from warrantless surveillance of telephone and Internet communications to and from US citizens than the NSA or the Bush administration has acknowledged (see October 2001). On December 15, the New York Times exposed the NSA’s program (see December 15, 2005), which was authorized by President Bush in early 2002 (see Early 2002), but which actually began far earlier (see Spring 2001). The NSA built its database with the cooperation of several major American telecommunications firms (see Early June, 2006), and much of the information was mined directly into the US telecommunications system’s major connections. Many law enforcement and judicial officials question the legality of the program (see May 12, 2006 and December 18, 2005), and many say the program goes beyond the bounds of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978). One question is whether the FISA Court, or FISC, can authorize monitoring of international communications that pass through US-based telephonic “switches,” which handle much of the US’s electronic communications traffic. “There was a lot of discussion about the switches” in conversations with FISC, says a Justice Department official. “You’re talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that’s on a switch that’s carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that.” While Bush and his officials have insisted that the warrantless wiretaps only target people with known links to al-Qaeda, they have not acknowledged that NSA technicials have not only eavesdropped on specific conversations between people with no known links to terrorism, but have combed through huge numbers of electronic communications in search of “patterns” that might point to terrorism suspects. Such “pattern analysis” usually requires court warrants before surveillance can begin, but in many cases, no such warrants have been obtained or even requested. Other, similar data-mining operations, such as the Total Information Awareness program, developed by the Defense Department to track terror suspects (see March 2002), and the Department of Homeland Security’s CAPPS program, which screened airline passengers (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), were subjected to intense public scrutiny and outrage, and were publicly scrapped. The Bush administration has insisted that it has no intention of scrapping the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, because, as its officials have said, it is necessary to identify and track terrorism suspects and foil terrorist plots before they can be hatched. Administration officials say that FISC is not quick enough to respond to its need to respond to potential terrorist acts. A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company says that after 9/11, the leading telecom firms have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists. “All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there’s been much more active involvement in that area,” says the former manager. “If they get content, that’s useful to them too, but the real plum is going to be the transaction data and the traffic analysis. Massive amounts of traffic analysis information—who is calling whom, who is in Osama Bin Laden’s circle of family and friends—is used to identify lines of communication that are then given closer scrutiny.” And, according to a government expert on communications privacy who used to work at the NSA, says that in the last few years, the government has quietly encouraged the telecom firms to rout more international traffic through its US-based switches so it can be monitored. Such traffic is not fully addressed by 1970s-era laws that were written before the onset of modern communications technology; neither does FISA adequately address the issues surrounding that technology. Computer engineer Phil Karn, who works for a major West Coast telecom firm, says access to those switches is critical: “If the government is gaining access to the switches like this, what you’re really talking about is the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/24/2005] Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Department of Justice, Total Information Awareness, New York Times, US Department of Homeland Security, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Bush administration, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, George W. Bush, National Security Agency, Phil Karn Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

ReferencesEdit

  1. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode49/usc_sec_49_00000114----000-.html#h_2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "The Aviation Security System and the 9/11 Attacks - Staff Statement No. 3" (PDF). 9/11 Commission. 
  3. "9/11 Commission Report (Chapter 1)". July 2004. 

See also Edit

External linksEdit

CAPPS IIEdit

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