Do You Have A Terror Score?

Do you often get pulled aside at airports for extra searches? If so, it may be because your Terror Score is higher than average. What? You say you didn’t know that everyone who travels in and out of the US through certain modes of transportation or certain entry or exit points (like border crossings) gets assigned a potential terrorist score by the US Government? You aren’t the only one who didn’t know.

Last week it came to light that for the last four years, the US government has secretly been using a system called the Automated Targeting System (ATS) to build a file on every American or foreigner that flies through American air space or crosses one of our borders. Airlines, Amtrak and maritime carriers (i.e. cruise ships or cargo ships) all pass your data into this system. Like an inverse credit score, the higher the number the bigger the potential risk. If you pay for a one way ticket for business or you want to fly to visit Aunt Sally and drive home that new car she bought you, your score goes up. Request a certain seat on an airplane? Expect your score to go up. Request certain special meals in flight? Yes, you can expect that to factor into your score.

Unlike a traditional credit score, you have no right to see it. No right to find out if there is erroneous information contained in it. No right to challenge it at all. Oh, and did I mention the government plans to keep the score on file for 40 years and may share it with foreign, state or local governments, courts, Congress or private employers at their discretion? Oh, and did I also mention that you could also be denied employment, licenses, security clearance, benefits or entrance to the country based on your Terror Score?

Scary, eh? This is just the latest abuse of civil liberties by the Bush Administration in the name of protecting our country. This latest exercise in data mining comes on the heels of the Bush Administration’s attempt to implement a screening program called “Secure Flight” which so alarmed the Republican-held Congress that it refused to let Bush implement it until it met 10 criteria for accuracy and privacy protection. This new program was implemented without Congressional oversight and under the radar. The few that did know of it thought it was only to be used to track incoming cargo or cruise ship passengers. The vast expansion of this program only came to light in the last week when a notice was published in the Federal Register exempting it from a number of Privacy Act provisions that prevent the Federal Goverment from building secret dossiers on its citizens.

This just scares the hell out of me. Not that I think that I’m a particularly big terrorist risk, but because the basic Terrorist Watch flight lists are loaded with bad information and this just carries the errors to new heights. As it is I can’t get aboard an airplane without using at least my middle intial or full middle name because someone out there with my name is on a watch list some where. Scads of people with very basic names like John Smith are stuck on watch lists and can’t get off them and are being hassled every time they check into an airport. And now we find out that the goverment is keeping secret files on us that we have no way to know if they are correct or not. What is this Russia?

Of course, all of this is being done in the name of our protection from the supposedly monolithic terrorist threat. I don’t know about you, but I’m more fearful of our government’s shredding of the constitution these days than I am of the terrorists. Now, I’m not your typical big-brother-is-watching-government-conspiracy type of gal. I abhor conspiracy theorists. But, I have always been a big-time civil libertarian. Our right to privacy is woven in the very fabric of our society and numerous clauses in the constitution.

We all take it for granted that we can’t be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by the 4th amendment. Yet, every day this Administration tries to find new ways to chip away at those rights that our Founders deemed so essential they enshrined them in the Bill of Rights. They’ve pushed for the right to conduct warrantless searches, the right to monitor where you go on the Internet without judicial approval by subpoenaing records from your ISP, the right to collect information about what you read from your local library, and the list of abuses goes on and on and on. Much of it has been done under the guise of the Patriot Act and the rest of it takes place under the cloak of Executive Orders issued by the President.

And, God forbid, you publicly challenge the administration on their attempts to subvert the constitution or chip away at your rights. You get labeled as non-Patriotic, or even worse an abettor of terrorists. I think one of the most patriotic things you can do is question your government’s acts. This Administration is so wrapped up in its own agenda, it has forgotten that it’s prime duty is to protect, not shred, the consitution. It’s not only our right to question our government when it goes astray, but it’s our duty as citizens.

But, luckily there’s a new wind blowing in Congress. Plans for hearings on the Bush Administration’s abuses are in the works for this winter. You can help move this to the top of the Agenda. Write your Congressional Representatives or Senators. Tell them that you won’t stand for further erosion of your rights under the US Constitution.

You can find the information about how to contact your Congressional Representatives by clicking on this link: US Congress

Your US Senators can be reached through this link: US Senate

One Response to “Do You Have A Terror Score?”

  1. Ásta says:

    You know it’s really, really scary to read this blog of your’s, guess Georg Orwell 1984 wasn’t such a fiction after all.