Your Aug. 8 editorial "Wandings at Airport Security" tells only half the story. As a privacy advocate, I agree that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has provided important privacy protections for its new airline-passenger screening system, known as CAPPS II. TSA has confirmed it would rely on commercial data only to authenticate the identity of passengers, and that it would not use health information or creditworthiness as part of that process.
But TSA has also expanded the system's mission significantly. It now says CAPPS II would be used to identify individuals with ties to international terrorist organizations as well as to domestic terrorist organizations, individuals with outstanding federal or state arrest warrants for crimes of violence, and, potentially, visa and immigration violators.
By expanding CAPPS II to the realm of domestic terrorism, TSA will have to evaluate the political activities of Americans, which is not a role it should want to play. Similarly, it is not clear that individuals with outstanding warrants for crimes of violence are a threat to other airline passengers. These additional uses of the program, no matter how compelling they might seem, would divert resources from the core mission of aviation security, thereby reducing TSA's ability to keep airline travel safe from terrorists. The broader the mission, the higher the likelihood of mistake.
Lara M. Flint
Center for Democracy and Technology
Regarding your Aug. 5 editorial "Ballot-Wise in Southeast Asia": Your warning that democracy in Southeast Asia, while it has come a good way, still has a long road to travel was a welcome assessment of the area. Your comments seem balanced and accurate, although I was somewhat bemused by your final statement about Burma. You wrote that economic sanctions "may have little effect until Burma's people, especially the nation's Buddhist monks, refuse to see the ruling junta as legitimate." As a professor of Southeast Asia studies, I have never found that anyone in Burma, except the ruling generals and their small coterie of thugs, regards the leadership as legitimate. As far as I know, there is constant and universal detestation of the junta, and Aung San Suu Kyi is widely revered and accepted as the true leader. But what can the people do?
Regarding your Aug. 11 article "Strategies for game of total recall": I have a question I'd like asked of prominent Republicans who are backing Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor. Here is a candidate who favors gay adoption and other gay rights. He favors legalized abortion and some forms of gun control. I'd like to ask his Republican backers, "If he were exactly the same candidate, but a Democrat, would you even think of backing him?"
This intrigues me because I think reflex partisanship is one of the more pernicious elements of our public discourse.
Iowa City, Iowa
Having read your Aug. 5 article "Czechs wince at capitalism's glare" as I visit Prague, and having visited this same country 10 years ago, I can concur that fancy lights and capitalism have replaced the soot and gray of the communist past. Environmental concerns have replaced disgust over bread lines.
The charm of this city is certainly at risk. The Czechs seem concerned not only about the Americanization of their country, but of the environmental impacts that follow. Light pollution is only one of them.
Santa Ana, Calif.
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