In a post from last August, author Edward Hasbrouck explains why he and the ACLU are suing the US Department of Homeland Security to force them to disclose traveler records in response to Freedom of Information Act requests:
I’m suing the government because of the significance of commercial airline reservations and the DHS “Automated Targeting System” as one of the largest post-9/11 U.S. government surveillance programs, and one of the largest collections of Federal government dossiers about the lives of innocent civilians after the IRS (tax) and Social Security (retirement) databases.I’m suing the government because of the intimate personal details and the sensitivity of the information contained in airline reservations and the government’s records, which I’m familiar with from 15 years of travel industry experience with airline reservations and from the censored excerpts from its travel dossiers that the DHS has released to some other people who’ve brought them to me for help in understanding their coding and significance: not just credit card numbers and IP addresses but also friends’ telephone numbers, whether two people asked for one bed or two in their hotel room, and what book someone was carrying when they entered the country.
I’m suing the government now, while I still can, because they have already tried to change the rules to exempt much of the information in PNR’s from disclosure, and to exempt themselves from any obligation to provide an accounting of what other government agencies, foreign governments, commercial entities, or other third parties they have “shared” this data with. (My requests were all made before these changes to the DHS Privacy Act regulations, so I’m entitled to this information regardless of whether the new rules are upheld.)
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