Lawsuit seeks to halt TSA Secure Flight data destruction

Four people have sued the Transportation Security Administration to stop it from destroying data used to test its passenger screening system, TSA officials said Friday.

Jim Harrison, a Sacramento, Calif., attorney, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage on behalf of four Alaskans, TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan said.

The suit would stop the destruction of 12 million Passenger Name Records (PNRs) that TSA collected as part of its Secure Flight program and require TSA to make them available for review, O'Sullivan said.

Harrison made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in May to TSA to see if his four clients were among the travelers whose data Secure Flight collected, O’Sullivan said. When TSA responded that they had no records of Harrison’s clients, Harrison appealed. TSA is scheduled to send Harrison a response to his appeal next week, she said.

TSA ordered airlines to submit 15 million passenger records from June 2004, O’Sullivan said. The agency could have requested up to 60 million records, she said.

The agency destroyed three million of the records April 19 when they were no longer needed, O’Sullivan said. The remaining 12 million will be destroyed within the next two months when Secure Flight finishes its commercial data testing, she said.

Secure Flight testing has already been a source of controversy. As part of its plan, TSA sent 42,000 records to a private company to do commercial testing. This put the privacy of passengers at risk by allowing a private contractor to collect personal data on passengers without their permission, a Government Accountability Office audit found last month. In response, TSA has bolstered Secure Flight's privacy protections.

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