GAO sees CAPPS II delays

General Accounting Office

A report issued today by the General Accounting Office found several delays in the development and planning of a controversial airline-passenger screening program of the Transportation Security Administration.

The GAO report states that TSA's Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II is behind schedule in testing and in the development of initial increments, due to TSA's delay in obtaining needed passenger data for testing from air carriers because of privacy concerns, GAO officials said.

According to the report, TSA has not established a complete plan that identifies a schedule for delivery or estimated costs.

CAPPS II is designed to screen airline passengers in an effort to identify possible terrorists. The program intends to verify passenger identity by crosschecking personal passenger information with databases of known terrorists.

Passengers would have to supply TSA with a full name, home address, home phone number and date of birth.

After initial screening, passengers would be scored according to perceived risk, and those placed in the higher risk category would be subject to more intense screening before being allowed to board.

Overall, the audit found that as of Jan. 1, TSA had not completely addressed seven of the eight critical issues identified by Congress concerning the CAPPS II program. These key areas relate to the development, operation and public acceptance of the screening program.

Among the shortcomings identified by the GAO, TSA has not:

* Determined and verified the accuracy of the databases to be used by CAPPS II.

* Stress tested and demonstrated the accuracy and effectiveness of all search tools to be used by CAPPS II.

* Completed a security plan to reduce opportunities for abuse and protect the system from unauthorized access.

* Adopted policies to establish effective oversight of the use and operation of the system.

* Identified and addressed all privacy concerns.

* Developed and documented a process under which passengers impacted by CAPPS II can appeal decisions and correct erroneous information.

GAO officials also stated that TSA faces several other challenges before CAPPS II could successfully be implemented, including developing international cooperation to obtain passenger data, managing the expansion of the program beyond it's original mission and protecting the system against identity theft.

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