TSA Now Looking To Make It Impossible For People Wrongly Added To Terrorist Watchlist To Travel On The Ground

from the just-stay-home,-I-guess dept

Apparently, it’s not enough to prevent hundreds or thousands of people with “no known affiliation” with terrorist groups from flying — a list that includes children who have yet to enter kindergarten. Even though the TSA long ago admitted (albeit, not publicly) the threat to airline flights was almost nonexistent, it still needs to look like it’s doing something useful to ensure continued funding.

So, it’s moving on to Amtrak, according to this report from WLKY, which obtained the TSA’s Privacy Impact Assessment [PDF] that discusses its decision to start running passenger manifests against the DHS’s highly questionable “no fly” list. We are moving on to “no rail” for Muslims and an assortment of brown people most likely described as “swarthy” and “suspicious” by people who couldn’t find an explosive device if you paid them to.

Amtrak has asked the TSA to start screening some of its passengers against the Terrorist Screening Database watchlist maintained by the Threat Screening Center to see if known or suspected terrorists have been riding the rails, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security privacy impact document obtained by the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit.

The program, part of the Amtrak Rail Passenger Threat Assessment and which has not been previously reported, would compare personal passenger information from Amtrak – which may also later include a traveler’s “publicly available social media” profiles viewed by DHS personnel – to the government’s terrorist screening database.

According to the Privacy Impact Assessment, the TSA believes hardly any privacy will be impacted. The sharing will be one way: Amtrak will hand over passenger manifests and the TSA will run names against watchlists.

To the extent it is available, Amtrak will provide historical passenger manifests for several months on routes in the Northeast corridor to TSA. The manifests will contain first and last name and date of birth for passengers who have provided that data to Amtrak. In addition, where available, Amtrak may also provide additional data elements that passengers have provided on an optional basis or as part of frequent passenger Guest Rewards accounts. These additional data elements may include but not exceed: middle initial; billing address; phone; email; ticketed origin/destination; and actual origin/destination. TSA will match the passenger information against the Terrorist Screening Database to identify possible known or suspected terrorists

The TSA claims — at least, at this point — that the information will only flow to the TSA. But if it finds matches, it’s inconceivable the information won’t be relayed back to Amtrak to flag passengers for the TSA to approach and/or track. While this appears to be exploratory at the moment (seeing how many hits on watchlists passenger manifests rack up), the end goal is obviously the implementation of a version of the “no fly” list that means no more traveling by rail for the hundreds of people the DHS has determined too dangerous to fly despite their apparent lack of ties to terrorist organizations.

And, like anything else the government chooses to do in bulk while securing the homeland, innocent people will be negatively affected.

There is a risk that limited information provided by Amtrak will result in inaccurate watchlist match results.

The mitigation factors the TSA lists only apply for as long as the TSA continues to do nothing but research historic data. Since the data doesn’t flow back to Amtrak at the moment, people mistakenly flagged by the system will still be able to travel via Amtrak. But it’s inevitable that this data will start flowing back to Amtrak, even as the TSA determines the threat to rail transportation is, like the threat to air travel, almost nonexistent. And once that happens, people who’ve never done anything wrong will lose another option for traversing the Land of the Free.

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Companies: amtrak

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Comments on “TSA Now Looking To Make It Impossible For People Wrongly Added To Terrorist Watchlist To Travel On The Ground”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

First rule of lying, come on...

Someone certainly couldn’t be bothered with coming up with a convincing or even believable lie…

TSA: There’s no privacy concern because the information will only go one way making it entirely useless for any sort of checking against our lists, they’re just sharing all that juicy data so we can look over it which again does not in any way impact privacy because who wouldn’t want a grossly incompetent government agency pouring over their travel data?

Anonymous Hero says:


It’s probably quite useful to the TSA. They may just be doing one-way, historical data now so they can get a few matches to build a story (whether or not real matches or just people who share the same name).

For example, if a train has someone on it who matches a name on the list, then they can claim all the passengers that traveled on the train for any of the stops was threatened.

This would allow them to say things like, “thousands of passengers are threatened by terrorists daily”, which would bring in more funding for the TSA rail programs. It’s similar to to border patrol accounting where if a group of five people each throw one rock at an agent, it somehow is calculated as 25 incidents of violence against border agents.

The end result will be to bring airport security theater to rail, so that we all have to take off our shoes before boarding a train.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“may also later include a traveler’s “publicly available social media” profiles viewed by DHS personnel – to the government’s terrorist screening database.”

Time to start pruning those Facebook friends kids.
Just knowing someone with a name on the list can get you on the list.
Knowing a journalist who writes mean things about DHS/TSA/Et al. can get you on the list.

They have telegraphed time and time again that they spend a huge amount of time “examining” brown people looking for anything they can spin into gold, do they honestly think that brown people are dumb enough to keep posting ‘death to america’ on their Facebook page?

They have also telegraphed that they are incapable of seeing the signs of terrorists who are white, even when they openly plan murder & mayhem.

We haven’t done this before and other than the ever popular, we can’t tell you because that might reveal to much excuses, there hasn’t been a huge spike in terrorists riding Amtrak I am aware of… (but when one considers how many members ride the trains in and out of DC…)

Honestly at some point we really should demand justifications for these expansions beyond well why not??

For the billions (maybe trillions at this point) we’ve spent on tiger repelling rocks, training to stare at goats, and they still can’t detect their own test devices we should really be asking is this needed?
They can’t do the job we gave them already, is giving them more scope and unchecked power the best possible idea?
(And if your congresscritter thinks it is, perhaps replace them at your first opportunity.)

Given how people have been screaming about muh rights over mask mandates, I gotta wonder about them if they don’t rise up about their rights being infringed because they decided to take a train. (Although most will assume as long as your name sounds white they won’t be checking on them.)

Life isn’t safe, bad things happen. You can not stop all the bad things and we need to stop pretending that can work. This won’t make us safer, but it will help to fracture the nation that little bit more.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Meh the Feebs are worthless at what they do.
They never found me to talk about Prenda & the others.
I mean I know I’m not SJD, but my name showed up in so many filings you would think they’d at least try.
(And if they tried and failed… well what the fsck is wrong with them?)

But then someone passed a background check for one of the acronym agencies despite me being a 1st ring contact to them.

TaboToka (profile) says:

not actual “security” planning.

Q1: Has a terrorist organization successfully executed an attack against rail that directly resulted in mass casualties (i.e., 10+ dead in a single incident)?

Q2: Have there been sufficient and repeated attacks against rail that necessitate elevating the risk assessment?

Q3: If the rail system is maintained as it is (i.e., no additional security), what is the likely outcome in terms of deaths due to terrorist actions within a year? 5 years? 10 years? Provide historical data and analytical models.

Q4: What is the expected outcome of a “no-rail list” on the answer to Q3? Provide the data/analytical models that support this prediction.

Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Re: Reverse Streisand Effect(RSE)

That way,.. when all of their “external” fears[read: anyone else that they might blame] have been mitigated, and there is a catastrophic rail failure (a-typically due to lack of maintenance) there will be NO ONE that they can blame, and will be forced to ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY for said lack of maintenance and deaths.

/e holds breathe.

Anonymous Coward says:


A1: Does it count if…
– the terrorist gives the train driver a bottle of 20 year old whiskey?
– how about if the terrorist fiddles the railroad’s books, embezzling maintenance money?
– What if the terrorist leaves a truck on a crossing?

Thing is, if someone wants a train to kill a lot of people, they don’t have to be on the train to do it.

AricTheRed says:

Re: ... now that you mention it...

They are already encroaching on the end of your street with every public event they “partner” with to provide “additional security”.

The Security Theatre that has been performing for 21 years & 5 months has trained a whole generation to surrender their rights at the sight of a line, some yellow footprints, and a RapeyScan.

My Grandfather who joined the US Navy in 1942 & served in the Pacific, Guadalcanal in particular after getting the boot from the US Army due to Scarlet Fever, his cousin who was awarded the CMOH because of his actions in France in January 1945, my father who volunteered to go to Vietnam in 1966, and myself who served in the 1990’s are all very sad about what we have done to ourselves as a nation.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Nah says:

Re: Re:

Techdirt should love the TSA. It’s everything they want.

A massive federal bureaucracy to fight a problem that barely exists and was once handled locally, employing many thousands of otherwise unemployable useless eaters, in order to make life miserable for innocent, normal people and reinforce the message that authority must be obeyed and never questioned. Bonus points that most of them are surly, unpleasant, and stupid, almost half female, and many not White.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Interaction with previous court rulings.

I thought that in several of the no-fly list cases, the availability of rail transport has been cited by the government and the court as a justification for limitations on domestic air travel. That is, air travel is a luxury and given the availability of passenger rail serves the same purpose just less efficiently, therefore the absence of due process isn’t a concern because you don’t have a right to air travel. But if the ability to access commercial passenger rail is restricted, I wonder if the TSA is falling into the same trap as those politicians seeking to shift from voluntary scanning for CSAM and shifting it to forced scanning for CSAM.

Paul B says:


I mean, at a minimum it automatically allows for a “Slippery Slope” argument in court.

Air travel somehow does not fall under the US idea of “Freedom of Movement” that the courts have established, but we’ve also seen boat travel fall under the same “no fly” lists. Adding trains means your down to cars, bus (already stopped for other reasons), and foot travel.

I mean what does freedom to travel mean once we put up ICE roadblocks, Travel bans on Planes and Trains and boats?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I mean what does freedom to travel mean once we put up ICE roadblocks, Travel bans on Planes and Trains and boats?

You can do what the ancients did, and that is walk. Boston to San Diego is 2,500 miles, and at standard walking distance per day, that would take five to six months, depending on detours round obstacles like rivers. Just make sure you have spare shoes, as you will be wearing out several pairs on the way.

Naughty Autie says:

Future Interactions:

TSA agent: “Excuse me, sir. Are you Salman Ali?”
Moslem father: “No, that’s my son here. Why?”
TSA agent: “Well, you and your wife can board the train, but the kid has to stay here. He’s on our terrorist watchlist.”
Moslem father: “And exactly how is a two-year-old child supposed to be a terrorist?”

AricTheRed says:

Re: As a Subject Matter Expert

“And exactly how is a two-year-old child supposed to be a terrorist?”

As a person that has made a two year old & known quite a few other two year old’s, I can assure you that without exception they are all little terrorists, it is just that many of them grow out of it eventually.

Paul says:

Hahahahahahaha! That shaky contraption called "AMTRAK"

Doesn’t need any terrorist to derail it, it can easily derail on its own. I drove it once from Philly to NYC (29. 12. 2009), and to behold, by some unforeseen miracle this super-shaker contraption made it to its destination without actually derailing! I took train rides in many countries world-wide, but none of them was shaking so bad as AMTRAK. Truly on par with African trains, and those are notoriously bad rides. Even Indian and Vietnamese trains offer far better comfort and smoother ride than AMTRAK.

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