The incoming Senate Judiciary chairman has pledged greater scrutiny of computerized government anti-terrorism screening after learning that millions of Americans who travel internationally have been assigned risk assessments over the past four years without their knowledge. `Data banks like this are overdue for oversight,` said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. `That is going to change in the new Congress.`
Millions of Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders in the past four years have been assessed by the computerized Automated Targeting System, or ATS, designed to help pick out terrorists or criminals. The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Under specific circumstances, some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments and even some private contractors.
`It is simply incredible that the Bush administration is willing to share this sensitive information with foreign governments and even private employers, while refusing to allow U.S. citizens to see or challenge their own terror scores,` Leahy said. This system `highlights the danger of government use of technology to conduct widespread surveillance of our daily lives without proper safeguards for privacy.`