Wandings at Airport Security

Chalk one up for government's ability to balance civil liberties and protection from terrorism. The Department of Homeland Security has announced it will stop collecting some personal information on airline passengers.

That should please privacy advocates and especially those bewildered passengers ("Who, me a terrorist?") who are routinely taken out of airport screening lines for more-comprehensive checks because a computer told a screener they were suspect.

The Department's first version of CAPPS, or Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening, had too broad a mandate, including the ability to use passengers' financial and medical data. Such data could also have been stored up to 50 years.

CAPPS II will now collect only a passenger's name, address, birth date, and phone number just a few hours before departure, and keep it for only a few days. That information will be checked against specific public and commercial databases to give screeners a "confidence" score in a passenger's identity. It also will comb terrorist "watch" lists and flag anyone wanted for violent crimes.

This tweaking of CAPPS shows the government must be more careful in curtailing certain freedoms when trying to bring about more security.

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