CAPPS II to be overhauled

The Homeland Security Department announced today that it plans to overhaul the Computer Aided Passenger Prescreening System II, its controversial project to pinpoint terrorists seeking to travel by air.

DHS headquarters' public affairs office clarified that CAPPS II is to be redesigned, following press reports that Secretary Tom Ridge had said it would be cancelled.

'DHS will continue to work to replace the antiquated system that it inherited,' said DHS spokeswoman Suzanne Luber, referring to CAPPS. 'Implementing a next generation passenger prescreening system continues to be a high priority for DHS, and we will continue to work to reach that goal.'

Luber said department officials had made the decision as a result of concerns raised during the regulatory process and in other forums about the privacy implications of CAPPS II. Attorneys and others in the privacy community have said that CAPPS II's method of sifting databases to finger terrorists jeopardizes the privacy of the travelling public.

She added that operational considerations had also been a factor in the department's decision to reshape CAPPS II. Luber said issues had arisen regarding the databases CAPPS II would query but was not able to clarify the exact nature of the issues.

Luber said DHS and the Transportation Security Administration would be able to use some of the work done on CAPPS II for the revamped screening system.

Luber pointedly avoided saying that the modification of the CAPPS II program would lead to any changes in contracts for the project.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., received a five-year, $12-million contract to build CAPPS II last year. Link here.

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