This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-05-864R 
entitled 'Aviation Security: Transportation Security Administration Did 
Not Fully Disclose Uses of Personal Information during Secure Flight 
Program Testing in Initial Privacy Notices, but Has Recently Taken 
Steps to More Fully Inform the Public' which was released on July 22, 
2005. 

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to Webmaster@gao.gov. 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

July 22, 2005: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Aviation Security: Transportation Security Administration Did 
Not Fully Disclose Uses of Personal Information during Secure Flight 
Program Testing in Initial Privacy Notices, but Has Recently Taken 
Steps to More Fully Inform the Public: 

As you know, we have been reviewing the Department of Homeland 
Security's (DHS) Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) efforts 
to develop and implement the Secure Flight program. The purpose of 
Secure Flight is to compare information on domestic airline passengers 
against information on known or suspected terrorists to identify 
passengers who should undergo additional security scrutiny. As we 
reported in February and March 2005, to develop Secure Flight, TSA has 
been conducting tests to compare data from airline reservation systems, 
such as name and flight number, with data from the government's 
consolidated terrorist watch lists, which include names of known and 
suspected terrorists.[Footnote 1] We also reported that TSA has been 
testing the use of selected data available from commercial data 
sources--private companies that maintain records on individual names, 
addresses, phone numbers, and other information--as a means of 
verifying the accuracy of passenger-provided data. In this letter, we 
report on key aspects of TSA's disclosure of its use of personal 
information during commercial data testing for Secure Flight as 
required by the Privacy Act, and TSA's actions to more fully disclose 
its use of personal information.[Footnote 2] We will continue our 
assessment of Secure Flight privacy protections as part of our ongoing 
review of the Secure Flight program. 

Results in Brief: 

During the course of our ongoing review of the Secure Flight program, 
we found that TSA did not fully disclose to the public its use of 
personal information in its fall 2004 privacy notices as required by 
the Privacy Act. In particular, the public was not made fully aware of, 
nor had the opportunity to comment on, TSA's use of personal 
information drawn from commercial sources to test aspects of the Secure 
Flight program. In September 2004 and November 2004, TSA issued privacy 
notices in the Federal Register[Footnote 3] that included descriptions 
of how such information would be used.[Footnote 4] However, these 
notices did not fully inform the public before testing began about the 
procedures that TSA and its contractors would follow for collecting, 
using, and storing commercial data. In addition, the scope of the data 
used during commercial data testing was not fully disclosed in the 
notices. Specifically, a TSA contractor, acting on behalf of the 
agency, collected more than 100 million commercial data records 
containing personal information such as name, date of birth, and 
telephone number without informing the public. As a result of TSA's 
actions, the public did not receive the full protections of the Privacy 
Act. 

On June 10, 2005, we briefed TSA on our concerns about privacy 
protection issues related to Secure Flight testing. TSA officials 
stated that they recognized the merits of GAO's concerns, and on June 
22, 2005, the agency published revised privacy notices to more fully 
disclose the nature of tests being conducted.[Footnote 5] The revised 
notices clarified the purpose of commercial data testing for Secure 
Flight and expanded the categories of records and individuals covered 
by the system of records as it applied to commercial data tests. In 
moving forward, TSA officials stated that they will put procedures in 
place to ensure that prior to making any change in testing procedures, 
the TSA Privacy Officer and TSA counsel would be consulted to determine 
whether a change to TSA's privacy notices would be required to inform 
the public. TSA officials also stated that no adverse consequences 
resulted from the use of commercial data because the data were used 
only in a test environment and not to make passenger prescreening 
decisions prior to actual flights.[Footnote 6] TSA officials further 
stated that data collected from commercial sources will not be used 
during the initial operation of Secure Flight, which is expected to 
begin in late 2005 or early 2006. TSA is, however, considering the use 
of such data in the future, if the data can be shown to improve the 
ability of Secure Flight to identify known or suspected terrorists. 

In its written comments to a draft of this letter, DHS reiterated that 
it recognized the merits of the issues raised by GAO, and that TSA 
acted immediately to address them. DHS also affirmed its commitment to 
adhere to the letter and intent of the Privacy Act and applicable 
policies on privacy protections. DHS further stated that the DHS Chief 
Privacy Officer is assessing the handling of passenger information and 
commercial data during Secure Flight testing and will, if appropriate, 
make recommendations to strengthen privacy protections. DHS also 
provided technical comments on the draft, which we incorporated as 
appropriate. 

Background: 

Following the events of September 11, 2001, and in accordance with the 
Aviation and Transportation Security Act,[Footnote 7] TSA took action 
to enhance passenger prescreening operations. In March 2003, TSA began 
developing a new Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, known 
as CAPPS II, as a means of enhancing security through passenger 
prescreening. However, following our review of this program in February 
2004, and a DHS internal review, DHS canceled CAPPS II's development in 
August 2004, due in part to concerns about privacy issues.[Footnote 8] 
That same year, TSA announced plans to develop a new passenger 
prescreening program known as Secure Flight. Under the Secure Flight 
program, TSA plans to take over from commercial airlines the 
responsibility for comparing information on domestic airline passengers 
against information on known or suspected terrorists. In addition, 
Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 
2004,[Footnote 9] establishing requirements that TSA assume this 
passenger prescreening responsibility. 

As part of Secure Flight's development, TSA contractors conducted tests 
to identify data elements needed to make accurate comparisons between 
airline reservation system data and government watch list data. TSA 
contractors also conducted tests to determine if the use of commercial 
data could improve the results of watch list comparisons. To accomplish 
this, TSA collected information from airline reservation systems-- 
including passenger name, flight reservation date, and flight number-- 
for passengers who flew during June 2004. This type of information is 
contained in the passenger name record (PNR). Also, to test the use of 
commercial data, TSA contractors collected and used commercially 
available data maintained by private companies. Commercial data 
providers maintain databases that contain personal information, such as 
name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number, 
among other identifiers. 

The Privacy Act regulates federal agencies' use of personal information 
and allows citizens to learn how their personal information is 
collected, maintained, used, and disseminated by the federal 
government.[Footnote 10] The act applies to personal information 
maintained by federal agencies or their contractors in a "system of 
records" from which records are retrieved by name or other personal 
identifier.[Footnote 11] The Privacy Act requires agencies to disclose 
information to the public regarding the collection of personal 
information through a system of records notice (SORN) published in the 
Federal Register.[Footnote 12] This notice must be issued upon 
establishment or revision of any system of records, and it must address 
specific types of information and "routine uses"--the specific uses 
planned by the agency--for the records contained in the system. More 
specifically, a SORN is to include a system's name and location, the 
categories of individuals included, the categories of records 
maintained, the use of records, the policies and practices regarding 
storage and maintenance of records, and agency procedures whereby 
individuals can be notified that they are subject to having their data 
collected, among other requirements.[Footnote 13]

Scope and Methodology: 

To assess key aspects of TSA's disclosure of its use of personal 
information during commercial data testing for Secure Flight as 
required by the Privacy Act, we reviewed the provisions of the Privacy 
Act and the Secure Flight privacy notices, including the SORN and 
privacy impact assessment. As TSA developed and conducted its 
commercial data tests, TSA provided us with the statement of work, 
contract, contract modifications, test plans, and draft test results. 
We analyzed these documents and met with TSA officials and TSA 
contractors responsible for Secure Flight testing to discuss the scope 
and methodology of commercial data testing. In addition, we also met 
with DHS and TSA officials to discuss Secure Flight privacy notices and 
privacy issues we identified related to commercial data testing. We 
also compared TSA's amended privacy notices, issued on June 22, 2005, 
with the fall 2004 privacy notices with regard to the issues addressed 
in this report. We did not evaluate whether TSA made any uses beyond 
testing of personal information it collected. We also did not review 
other aspects of privacy related to Secure Flight testing, including 
TSA's internal controls for monitoring compliance with Privacy Act 
requirements. We will continue to assess privacy protections as part of 
our ongoing review of the Secure Flight program. We conducted our work 
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards 
from February 2005 through July 2005. 

TSA's Disclosure of Its Use of Personal Information from Commercial 
Sources Was Not Consistent with Privacy Act Requirements: 

Descriptions of how TSA planned to use personal information from 
commercial sources during Secure Flight testing, as published in the 
Federal Register in September 2004 and November 2004, differed in scope 
from how the data were actually used. As a result, the agency did not 
provide appropriate disclosure about its collection, use, and storage 
of personal information as required by the Privacy Act. For example, 
TSA collected and stored commercial data records even though TSA stated 
in its privacy notices that it would not do so. 

TSA's Scope and Objectives of Commercial Data Testing Differed from 
Fall 2004 Public Disclosure Notices: 

In September 2004, TSA published its SORN for Secure Flight testing in 
the Federal Register, as required by the Privacy Act, disclosing its 
plans to use personal information during Secure Flight 
testing.[Footnote 14] However, the way TSA's contractors used 
information to conduct commercial data tests differed from the usage 
disclosed in TSA's fall 2004 privacy notices. Specifically, TSA's 
contractors used PNR data supplemented with commercial data to 
determine if commercial data could be effective in eliminating 
incorrect matches against the government's consolidated terrorist watch 
lists. However, in its fall 2004 privacy notices, TSA did not identify 
its plans to supplement PNR data with commercial data. 

In testing the usefulness of commercial data to enhance watch list 
comparisons, a TSA contractor verified passenger identities and then 
added commercial data to PNRs in order to make them as complete as 
possible for comparing against terrorist watch lists. To carry out 
these steps, a TSA contractor sent three commercial data providers 
approximately 240,000 names, which included 43,000 names from a subset 
of the June 2004 PNR data and variations of those names, to obtain 
commercial data for testing. According to TSA officials, this approach 
obscured the identities of those individuals represented in the PNR 
data in an attempt to protect their privacy. For example, the name John 
Doe, an actual passenger, could have been included in the names sent to 
commercial data providers along with such variations as Jon Doe, John 
Dough, and J. Doe. As requested by a TSA contractor, the commercial 
data providers sent back to the contractor records matching those 
names, which totaled over 100 million records. These records included 
information on individuals who did not fly in June 2004 and included 
data elements beyond those requested by TSA's contractor.[Footnote 15] 
According to TSA, its contractors used data elements requested for 
testing, such as names, dates of birth, address information, and phone 
numbers received from the commercial data providers, in an attempt to 
verify the identities of those represented in the PNR data. Following 
the identity verification process, the commercial data records that 
were determined to be the best match were then used to fill in data 
elements that were missing from the PNR data. In turn, these 
supplemented PNRs were provided to TSA for enhanced matching against 
data from the terrorist watch lists. 

TSA's statement of work for commercial data testing, which was posted 
on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site on January 26, 
2005,[Footnote 16] indicated the agency's plans to use commercial data 
to supplement the PNR data and to provide the enhanced PNRs to the 
government for matching against data from the terrorist watch 
lists.[Footnote 17] TSA also described in more detail its methods for 
supplementing these records in test plans of March 17, 2005, and April 
5, 2005, and its draft final test results report of May 10, 2005. 
However, these latter documents were not released to the public. 

TSA Did Not Collect, Use, and Store Data in Accordance with Privacy Act 
Requirements: 

In testing the use of commercial data, TSA's contractors collected, 
used, and stored personal information from commercial sources in ways 
that were inconsistent with disclosures in TSA's fall 2004 privacy 
notices as discussed below. As a result, the public did not receive the 
full protections of the Privacy Act. Specifically, TSA did not fully 
inform the public of: (1) the subjects of data collection, (2) the 
types of personal data to be collected, (3) the full purpose of 
collecting the data, (4) policies and practices regarding storage and 
maintenance of the data, and (5) how those subject to having their 
personal data collected could access and amend their data. 

First, under the Privacy Act, agencies must disclose the categories of 
individuals on whom records are collected and maintained and the 
agencies' procedures for notifying individuals, when requested, if 
information collected pertains to them. TSA's commercial data testing 
involved more individuals than disclosed in its original privacy 
notices. The fall 2004 privacy notices stated that only those who were 
passengers on domestic flights in June of 2004 would be subject to 
collection. However, additional individuals who may not have flown 
during June 2004 were subject to having data collected if their names 
were similar to the names of individuals represented in PNR data. 

Second, the Privacy Act requires disclosure of the categories, or 
types, of information collected and maintained by an agency in a system 
of records. A TSA contractor collected types of data for commercial 
data testing other than those TSA publicly disclosed in its fall 2004 
privacy notices. In describing information to be collected and used for 
the system, the privacy notices refer only to PNR data to be obtained 
from airlines. Although TSA's contractors collected or used personal 
information from commercial sources for Secure Flight testing, the 
privacy notices stated that only "authentication scores and codes" 
would be obtained from commercial data providers. While PNR data are 
directly related to a passenger's reservation and travel itinerary, 
commercial data may include a wide variety of other personal 
information, such as social security numbers, credit reports, and 
gender, among other information. 

Third, the Privacy Act specifies that information collected for one 
purpose may not be used for another purpose without notice to, or 
consent of, individuals subject to having their data collected. TSA's 
contractors used commercial data for purposes that TSA did not disclose 
in its fall 2004 privacy notices. The privacy notices stated that TSA 
would use commercial data to identify PNR data that was incorrect or 
inaccurate. However, in addition to the publicly disclosed purpose, a 
TSA contractor used commercial data to fill in data that were missing 
from the PNR data, such as full name. The contractor also used the 
commercial data to capture additional information not consistently 
found in PNRs, such as date of birth. 

Fourth, pursuant to the Privacy Act, agencies must disclose their 
policies and practices regarding storage, retrievability, access 
controls, retention, and disposal of records containing personal 
information. TSA did not indicate how it would access, retrieve, 
retain, and dispose of the commercially obtained personal data or how 
it would apply controls regarding the maintenance of such data. In 
addition, TSA's privacy notices stated that TSA would not store 
commercially obtained personal data. However, TSA and TSA contractors 
did store this data based on two separate data collection activities 
that compiled more than 100 million commercial data records. 

Fifth, under the Privacy Act, agencies must disclose their procedures 
for allowing individuals to access any records pertaining to them and 
provide a means for contesting the content of such records. While TSA 
offered airline passengers who flew during June 2004 an opportunity to 
access or request to amend their PNR data, they did not make a similar 
provision for individuals represented in the commercial data that was 
collected. TSA collected more than 100 million commercial data records 
during commercial data testing. As a result, an unknown number of 
individuals whose personal information was collected were not notified 
as to how they might access or amend their personal data.[Footnote 18]

On June 10, 2005, we briefed TSA on these concerns about privacy 
protection issues related to Secure Flight testing. TSA officials 
stated they recognized the merits of GAO's concerns, and on June 22, 
2005, the agency published revised privacy notices to more fully 
disclose the nature of tests being conducted. TSA officials further 
stated that the use of commercial data was limited to testing and did 
not involve determinations affecting any individuals. Specifically, 
officials stated that they did not use test data in making passenger 
prescreening decisions or to provide information on potential terrorist 
activity to law enforcement officials.[Footnote 19] While it appears 
that no determinations were made by TSA with regard to air travel by 
specific individuals on whom it had collected data, these people were 
unable to exercise their rights of access to their information. In 
addition, these individuals, as well as the general public, were not 
informed as to how personal information would be used and did not have 
the opportunity to comment on TSA's use of the data. 

TSA Issued Revised Privacy Notices and Plans to Further Address Secure 
Flight Privacy Issues: 

TSA issued revised privacy notices on June 22, 2005, to clarify and 
describe with greater particularity who was subject to having their 
data collected, and the type of data collected, during Secure Flight 
commercial data tests. In its revised notices, TSA clarified that the 
Secure Flight test system of records includes individuals identified in 
commercial data purchased and held by TSA contractors, and that the 
Secure Flight test system of records included PNRs that were enhanced 
with certain commercial data elements which were provided to TSA 
(commercial data that was purchased and held by TSA contractors). In 
addition, the notices identified that the purpose of the Secure Flight 
test includes testing the government's ability to verify the identity 
of passengers, and to improve the efficacy of watch list comparisons by 
making passenger information more complete and accurate using 
commercial data. The notices further stated that commercially obtained 
personal data were stored in at the Office of Transportation Vetting 
and Credentialing (OTVC) in Annapolis Junction, Maryland; the OTVC 
assessment facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and at a 
contractor's headquarters in McLean, Virginia. The data were stored on 
magnetic disc, tape, digital media, CD-ROMs, and may also have been 
retained on paper. TSA's revised notices also identified that all 
persons may request information about them contained in the system of 
records by writing to the TSA Privacy Officer. 

Although TSA did not fully disclose its plans to use personal 
information in its fall 2004 privacy notices as required by the Privacy 
Act, TSA officials stated that steps were taken by the agency and the 
agency's contractors to secure the commercial data obtained to ensure 
that personal information was not inappropriately accessed during 
testing. For example, according to TSA officials, they sent commercial 
data providers names using a secure file transfer protocol and e-mail, 
and data were loaded into a database on test and analysis computers in 
a secure lab and locked in a safe when not in use. TSA officials also 
stated that the discs containing PNR data enhanced with commercial data 
are being stored in a secure government safe at OTVC in accordance with 
the data-handling policy developed and approved by TSA's Privacy 
Officer. TSA officials also stated that access to personal information 
was, and continues to be, limited to only those TSA employees and 
contractors who have a "need to know," and each employee and contractor 
associated with the Secure Flight training has completed mandatory 
privacy training prior to beginning work on the program. We have not 
assessed the adequacy of TSA's security controls for commercial data 
testing as part of this review. 

Finally, TSA officials stated that as the Secure Flight program moves 
from a testing environment to operations, which is expected to begin in 
late 2005 or early 2006, they will take additional steps to protect 
privacy. For example, TSA officials stated they will put procedures in 
place to ensure that prior to making any change in testing procedures, 
the TSA Privacy Officer and TSA counsel would be consulted to determine 
whether a change to TSA's SORN and privacy impact assessment would be 
required. TSA officials further stated that the agency will defer any 
decision on how commercial data might be used by Secure Flight, if at 
all, until the completion of the test period, assessment of the test 
results, and publication of subsequent privacy notices announcing the 
intended use of such commercial data. TSA officials stated that the 
agency does not plan to use personal information collected from 
commercial sources during the initial operations of Secure Flight, but 
will consider the use of such data in the future if the data can be 
shown to improve the ability of Secure Flight to identify known or 
suspected terrorists. 

Concluding Observations: 

Because the Secure Flight program involves, by design, personal 
information, it is important that TSA be vigilant with respect to 
individual privacy protections and fully disclose uses of personal 
information prior to accessing such data. In its fall 2004 notices, TSA 
informed the public of its plans to use personal information during 
Secure Flight testing, including the use of commercial data in a 
limited manner. However, these initial notices did not fully describe 
how personal information would be collected, used, and stored for 
commercial data testing. As a result, individuals were not fully 
informed of their personal information being collected and used, nor 
did they have the opportunity to comment on this or become informed on 
how they might exercise their rights of access to their information. 
Although TSA did not fully disclose its use of personal information 
prior to beginning Secure Flight testing, the agency recently issued 
revised privacy notices to more fully disclose the nature of these 
tests, and address the issues identified in this letter. Issuing the 
revised notices is an appropriate step to more fully inform the public 
of its use of personal information. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft copy of this letter to DHS for its review and 
comment. On July 21, 2005, we received written comments on the draft 
letter which are reproduced in full in Enclosure I. DHS generally 
agreed with our findings, and stated that TSA acted immediately to 
address the issues identified in this letter. DHS also affirmed its 
commitment to adhere to the letter and intent of the Privacy Act and 
applicable policies on privacy protections. DHS further stated that its 
Chief Privacy Officer initiated an assessment of TSA's handling of 
passenger information during Secure Flight commercial data testing. In 
addition, DHS stated that it had shared information regarding its 
privacy efforts with Congress, air carriers, and privacy groups, and 
stated that GAO reviewed all testing parameters prior to TSA's 
commencement of commercial data testing in mid-March 2005. Finally, DHS 
described data security controls that it put in place to protect 
commercial data from unauthorized access and to prevent system abuses. 
DHS also provided technical comments on the draft, which we 
incorporated as appropriate. 

We believe that DHS' stated commitment to adhere to the letter and 
intent of the Privacy Act and applicable policies is an important step 
in addressing privacy protections, and we look forward to the results, 
including recommendations, if any, of the DHS Chief Privacy Officer's 
on-going privacy assessment related to commercial data testing. 
Regarding DHS' assertion that GAO reviewed all testing parameters prior 
to TSA's initiation of commercial data testing, we were not able to 
fully assess TSA's plans for commercial data testing prior to the 
initiation of testing because TSA did not provide to GAO its complete 
test plans or related details from the testing contractor until April 
2005. Further, while we believe stakeholder coordination related to 
privacy protections is important, TSA is ultimately responsible for 
fully disclosing its use of personal data during testing to the public 
in accordance with Privacy Act requirements. Finally, we did not review 
the effectiveness of TSA's reported security controls related to 
commercial data. 
We are sending copies of this letter to the Secretary of the Department 
of Homeland Security, the Director of the Transportation Security 
Administration, and the Assistant Administrator for Secure 
Flight/Registered Traveler. Copies of this letter will be made 
available to others upon request. In addition, the letter will be 
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at http://www.gao.gov. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this letter, please 
contact us at (202) 512-3404 (berrickc@gao.gov) or (202) 512-6240 
(koontzl@gao.gov). Other key contributors to this report were Amy 
Bernstein, John de Ferrari, Christine Fossett, Brent Helt, R. Denton 
Herring, Adam Hoffman, David Hooper, Thomas Lombardi, C. James Madar, 
David Plocher, and Jamie Pressman. 

Sincerely yours,

Signed by: 

Cathleen A. Berrick, Director,
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

Signed by: 

Linda D. Koontz, Director: 
Information Management Issues: 

List of Congressional Committees: 

The Honorable Thad Cochran: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Robert C. Byrd: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Judd Gregg: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Robert C. Byrd: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Subcommittee on Homeland Security: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ted Stevens: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye: 
Co-Chairman: 
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Conrad Burns: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Subcommittee on Aviation: 
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Arlen Specter: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Patrick Leahy: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on the Judiciary: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Susan M. Collins: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Jerry Lewis: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable David R. Obey: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Harold Rogers: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Martin Olav Sabo: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Subcommittee on Homeland Security: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Christopher Cox: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson: 
Ranking Minority Member: 
Committee on Homeland Security: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Don Young: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable James L. Oberstar: 
Ranking Democratic Member: 
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Tom Davis: 
Chairman: 
Committee on Government Reform: 
House of Representatives: 

Enclosure I: Comments from the Department of Homeland Security: 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security: 
Washington, DC 20528: 

July 20, 2005: 

Cathleen Berrick: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, N.W.: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Dear Ms. Berrick: 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on GAO's letter report 
regarding privacy issues related to testing of the Secure Flight 
Program entitled, "Aviation Security: Transportation Security 
Administration Did Not Fully Disclose Uses of Personal Information 
during Secure Flight Program Testing in Initial Privacy Notices, but 
Has Recently Taken Steps to More Fully Inform the Public" GAO-05-864R. 

As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has demonstrated over the 
past several weeks, we take very seriously the concerns that GAO 
brought forward on June 10, 2005 regarding commercial data testing 
during the period between mid-March and mid-June of 2005, regarding 
privacy protection issues related to Secure Flight testing. TSA 
recognized the merits of GAO's technical concerns and acted immediately 
to address them. 

As you know, commercial data testing began in mid-March of 2005, after 
GAO reviewed all testing parameters. Upon GAO's notification of its 
concerns, TSA published a notice on June 22, 2005, to supplement and 
amend the existing Privacy Act system of records notice (SORN) and 
Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for Secure Flight testing. The revised 
notices clarified the purpose of commercial data testing for Secure 
Flight and expanded the categories of records and individuals covered 
by the SORN. TSA also put procedures in place to ensure that prior to 
making any change in testing procedures, the TSA Privacy Officer and 
TSA counsel will be consulted to determine whether a change to the SORN 
or PIA are necessary. 

Full Disclosure of Commercial Data Testing Plan: 

As you point out in your draft letter, the purpose of the Secure Flight 
commercial data test is to evaluate the Government's ability to verify 
the identities of passengers using commercial data and to improve the 
efficacy of watch list comparisons by making passenger information more 
complete and accurate using commercial data. 

On September 24, 2004, TSA published in the Federal Register a number 
of documents necessary to allow the agency to begin testing the Secure 
Flight program. These included: (1) a proposed order to U.S. aircraft 
operators directing them to provide a limited set of historical 
passenger name records (PNRs) to TSA for use in testing the program (69 
FR 57342); (2) a Privacy Act System of Records Notice (SORN) for 
records involved in testing the program (69 FR 57345); and (3) a 
Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for program testing (69 FR 57352). 
These documents explained that in addition to testing TSA's ability to 
conduct automated watch list comparisons for purposes of the Secure 
Flight program, TSA intended to conduct a separate test to determine 
whether the use of commercial data would be effective in identifying 
passenger information that is incorrect or inaccurate. At the time TSA 
issued the notices, the details of the plan for commercial data testing 
had not been finalized. Therefore, the September 2004 notices fully 
disclosed TSA's plan for commercial data testing, to the extent the 
plan had been developed at that time. 

Commercial data testing began in mid-March of 2005, after GAO reviewed 
all testing parameters. When in mid-June 2005 GAO raised concerns about 
discrepancies between the description of the commercial data testing in 
the September 2004 notices and certain aspects of the way the test 
ultimately was conducted, TSA acted immediately to address those 
concerns as soon as they were brought to our attention. TSA provided 
briefings beginning in December 2004 regarding privacy efforts to 
Congress, Air Carriers and privacy groups regarding the testing and has 
been cooperating with GAO audits since Spring of 2004. In addition, 
commercial data records collected by the TSA contractor were used for 
testing purposes only and were not used in whole or in part in making 
any determination about an identifiable individual. 

No decision has yet been made on whether commercial data will 
ultimately be used in Secure Flight. If TSA decides to use commercial 
data for Secure Flight, it will not do so until the agency publishes a 
new SORN and PIA announcing how commercial data will be used and how 
individuals' privacy will be protected. The initial rollout of Secure 
Flight will include only watch list checking, as directed by the House 
Appropriations Committee earlier this year. 

TSA Maintains Stringent Data Protection Practices: 

TSA has employed data security controls to protect the data used for 
Secure Flight testing activities. The procedures and policies that are 
in place are intended to ensure that no unauthorized access to records 
occurs and that operational safeguards are firmly in place to prevent 
system abuses. 

Information in TSA's record systems is safeguarded in accordance with 
the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (Pub. L. 107- 
347), which established Government-wide computer security and training 
standards for all persons associated with the management and operation 
of Federal computer systems. TSA and its contractors' systems and 
facilities on which the tests are or have been conducted were assessed 
by the TSA Chief Information Officer (CIO) and other TSA officials for 
security risks, and TSA has implemented security policies and plans 
consistent with statutory, regulatory and internal DHS guidance. 

Measures that are in place include the following: 

* Access to private information is limited to only those TSA employees 
and contractors who have a "need to know" to perform their duties 
associated with Secure Flight operations;

* A detailed log of all instances in which data are transferred or 
accessed;

* Data are maintained at a secure facility, and the information is 
protected in accordance with rules and policies established by both TSA 
and DHS for automated systems and for hard copy storage, including 
password protection and secure file cabinets;

* Each employee and contractor associated with the Secure Flight 
program has completed mandatory privacy training prior to beginning 
work on the program;

* TSA, in consultation with the TSA Privacy Officer, has established 
chain-of-custody procedures for the receipt, handling, safeguarding, 
and tracking of access to the PNR data;

Finally, at the conclusion of testing and GAO's review, all passenger 
and commercial data used for testing will be destroyed. 

TSA is Committed to Protecting Personal Privacy: 

In March, 2004, TSA established Privacy Principles that every employee 
is required to follow in the design and development of programs as well 
as in collecting and using personal information about members of the 
public for use in those programs. The TSA Privacy Officer regularly 
communicates with program offices during the development and 
implementation of agency programs. In addition, program offices are 
required to consult with the TSA Privacy Officer on privacy matters 
affecting agency programs. 

The Deputy Secretary has requested the DHS Chief Privacy Officer to 
assess the handling of passenger information and commercial data during 
the testing phase and to provide any recommendations about how to 
strengthen our focus on privacy protection as we continue testing and 
contemplate deployment of Secure Flight. The Deputy Secretary has made 
the same request of the Department's new Data Privacy and Integrity 
Advisory Committee. In addition, the Aviation Security Advisory 
Committee (ASAC) established the Secure Flight Privacy/IT Working Group 
in September 2004, which has been reviewing the development of the 
Secure Flight program and is expected to present its recommendations to 
the ASAC in the near future regarding Secure Flight. 

The Department is resolute in our commitment to adhere to the letter 
and intent of the Privacy Act and applicable policies on privacy 
protection. Moreover, we have continuously consulted with various 
privacy advocates to seek best practices and share details about this 
important program, and TSA will continue to work with the DHS Privacy 
Officer on the privacy issues relating to Secure Flight. 

Thank you again and we look forward to out continued work together to 
enhance the nation's transportation security. We appreciate the 
opportunity to contribute comments to the draft report. For further 
information for readers of this report, please contact TSA public 
affairs at (571) 227-2829. 

Sincerely,

Signed by: 

Steven J. Pecinovsky: 
Director, Departmental GAO/IG Liaison Office: 
Department of Homeland Security: 

[End of section] 

(440372): 

FOOTNOTES

[1] For more on the Secure Flight program, see GAO, Aviation Security: 
Secure Flight Development and Testing Under Way, but Risks Should Be 
Managed as System is Further Developed, GAO-05-356 (Washington, D.C.: 
Mar. 28, 2005) and GAO, Aviation Security: Measures for Testing the 
Impact of Using Commercial Data for the Secure Flight Program, GAO-05- 
324 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 23, 2005). 

[2] Privacy Act of 1974, Pub. L. No. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896 (codified as 
amended at 5 U.S.C.  552a). The Privacy Act provides safeguards 
against an invasion of privacy through the misuse of records by federal 
agencies and allows citizens to learn how their personal information is 
collected, maintained, used, and disseminated by the federal 
government. 

[3] System of Records Notice, 69 Fed. Reg. 57,345 (Sept. 24, 2004); 
Privacy Impact Assessment, 69 Fed. Reg. 57,352 (Sept. 24, 2004); Notice 
of Final Order for Secure Flight Testing, 69 Fed. Reg. 65,619 (Nov. 15, 
2004). 

[4] The Privacy Act requires that an agency publish a system of records 
notice in the Federal Register upon establishment or revision of the 
existence and character of any system of records. See  552a(e)(4). The 
notices also addressed requirements of the E-Government Act of 2002, 
Pub. L. No. 107-347, 116 Stat. 2899, which requires agencies to conduct 
a privacy impact assessment before developing systems that collect, 
maintain, or disseminate information in an identifiable form, and the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-13, 109 Stat. 163, 
which requires public notice of agency information collection 
proposals, which in this case was the proposed order to the airlines to 
provide passenger name records. 

[5] 70 Fed. Reg. 36,320 (June 22, 2005). 

[6] Passenger prescreening is the identification of aviation passengers 
that may pose a security risk before they reach the passenger screening 
checkpoint at airports. 

[7] Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Pub. L. No. 107-71,  
136, 115 Stat. 597, 636-37 (2001). 

[8] For more information on the CAPPS II program, see GAO, Aviation 
Security: Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System Faces 
Significant Implementation Challenges, GAO-04-385 (Washington, D.C.: 
Feb. 12, 2004). 

[9] The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Pub. 
L. No. 108-458,  4012, 118 Stat. 3638, 3714-19, requires that TSA 
begin to assume performance of the passenger prescreening function 
within 180 days after the completion of testing. 

[10] Many provisions of the Privacy Act are based on fair information 
practices--a set of internationally recognized privacy 

protection principles--including the requirement to keep collection of 
personal information limited, to specify the collection's precise 
purpose, to limit the use of collected data, to notify individuals 
subject to data collection, and to give those individuals the 
opportunity to access the information collected about them and request 
corrections. 

[11] Government contractors are bound by the Privacy Act provided they 
are operating a system of records on behalf of an agency to accomplish 
an agency function.  552a(m). 

[12] Apart from the Privacy Act, the E-Government Act requires agencies 
to describe similar privacy protections in a privacy impact assessment, 
which addresses what information is to be collected, the intended use 
of the information, with whom the information will be shared, what 
notices or opportunities for consent would be provided to individuals 
regarding what information is collected, how the information will be 
secured, and whether a system of records is being created. 

[13] See  552a(e)(4). 

[14] This discussion focuses on our assessment of TSA's description of 
its test in its fall 2004 SORN, as required by the Privacy Act, and 
Notice of Final Order. Because TSA similarly described its test in its 
fall Privacy Impact Assessment, our discussion generally applies to 
TSA's fall privacy impact assessment as well. 

[15] The TSA contractor that purchased commercial data requested data 
elements such as name, date of birth, gender, and telephone number, 
among others. The TSA contractor also received other data elements as 
well, such as social security numbers, but TSA officials said these 
data elements were not used during testing. 

[16] Federal Business Opportunities, Jan. 26, 2005. 
http://www2.eps.gov/servlet/Documents/R/1090245/552071 (accessed July 
6, 2005). 

[17] Although the statement of work was publicly available through the 
Federal Business Opportunities Web site, any revisions or amendments to 
the SORN would need to be published in the Federal Register to conform 
to Privacy Act requirements. 

[18] The TSA contractor did not determine how many individuals were 
represented in the more than 100 million commercial data records it 
received. 

[19] We did not assess whether there were any resulting effects on 
individuals.