Auditors: Questions hang over passenger-screening system

Auditors: Questions hang over passenger-screening system

The Homeland Security Department's fledgling passenger-screening system, Secure Flight, faces uncertainties in schedule, cost, functionality and privacy impact, the Government Accountability Office concludes in a report released today.

DHS' Transportation Security Agency announced plans to build Secure Flight in September [see GCN story]. Its predecessor, the Computer Aided Passenger Prescreening System II, withered under attacks from privacy advocates about its use of data-mining technology.

The new GAO report emphasizes that Secure Flight is a work in progress and that it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the program based on the information available so far. But the auditors noted TSA has strengthened project oversight by assigning more staff to Secure Flight.

Nonetheless, the report warns that TSA has not established that Secure Flight can make accurate matches between passenger data and information on terrorist watch lists. Additionally, GAO said Secure Flight needs a defined way for people to correct inaccurate information, especially faulty data provided by commercial database vendors.

Secure Flight's cost and schedule prospects remain fluid, GAO said, because TSA officials are still defining the program.

The auditors recommended that TSA complete system requirements, plans and cost estimates for Secure Flight. Further, the agency should adopt a plan to measure system performance, GAO said

In its written response, TSA said it generally agreed with the findings.

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