Civil servants weigh in against CAPPS II

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has added its voice to the chorus of criticism over the Transportation Security Administration's Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) II.

The program seeks to keep terrorists off commercial aircraft by enabling airport security officials to consult a list of potentially dangerous travelers and detain would-be airline passengers who appear on it. In assailing the controversial system, members of the civil service union pointed to what they view as glitches in TSA's hiring and grievance process, which began in 2002 when the agency underwent a massive federalization effort, in which it reviewed more than 1.7 million applications and hired more than 55,000 screeners.

Allegations of improper hiring practices have yielded 841 complaints, plus about 45 others received by the House Government Reform Committee. TSA officials have defended the legality of CAPPS II and say they have taken steps to rectify systemic problems, but the AFGE suggested that its members' experience could foreshadow screening problems.

"TSA can't even take care of its own employees," federation spokesperson Diane Witiak argued. "If they can't do it internally, and there's no appeals process for workers who have been unfairly fired, how can they deal with the traveling public?"

CAPPS II has drawn intense criticism from some members of Congress and a host of civil liberty groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a class-action lawsuit against TSA, charging that the program violates individual rights, including those of eight of its own members who found themselves on the so-called "no-fly list."

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