House passes homeland security measures
The House has passed a series of homeland security measures that focus on airport security and enhancing the redress system for travelers who believe they are wrongly on the government’s name-based terrorist watchlist database.
The Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act, passed June 18, would require the Homeland Security Department to create a comprehensive list of people cleared from having connections to terrorism and share it in that department and with other organizations that use versions of the terrorist watchlist for screening.
Travelers who share names with individuals on the government's consolidated terrorism watchlist have frequently been misidentified and faced difficulties when traveling. The name-based no-fly list maintained by the Transportation Security Administration, a component of DHS, is a version of the the government's consolidated terrorist watchlist for commercial aviation.
Separately from this legislation, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on April 28 announced an initiative to decrease the number of “false positives” identified in screening. Through that program, airlines can mitigate the problem by storing additional biographic information from travelers, such as a dates of birth. Chertoff said that one major airline estimates that it gets about 9,000 false positives each day.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), said more than 15,000 people who felt they were incorrectly identified have given extra personal information voluntarily to TSA.
The House also passed a series of other bills that dealt with airport security on June 18:
- The Biometric Enhancement for Airport-Risk Reduction Act of 2008 that would require TSA to examine how airports can adopt biometric identification systems for airport workers.
- The Catching Operational Vulnerabilities by Ensuring Random Testing Act of 2008 that aims to boost the effectiveness of covert testing of airport security.
- The Civil Air Patrol Homeland Security Support Act of 2007. This legislation would require government auditors to look into the Civil Air Patrol's capabilities of partnering with DHS.
In addition, the House passed a resolution that that TSA should enhance security on rail and mass transit lines and two other homeland security measures:
- The National Bombing Prevention Act of 2008, which would establish an office for enhancing federal response and prevention efforts for terrorist explosive attacks.
- The Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act, which would support international and domestic efforts to detect so-called dirty bombs.
The measures all passed by a voice vote and now must be taken up by the Senate, likely as part of the Homeland Security Department’s Authorization bill.
Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.