EPIC logo
June 11, 2003



WASHINGTON, DC -- The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today asked a federal judge to order the disclosure of information concerning the development of a controversial airline passenger screening system. The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Defense (DOD) have failed to comply with the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.

EPIC's suit seeks the public release of documents concerning TSA's enhanced Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II), which would analyze large amounts of personal data and perform background checks on millions of airline passengers. CAPPS II has been the focus of public controversy since its inception as a result of the privacy issues it raises and the secrecy that has surrounded its development.

In March, EPIC requested from TSA any privacy assessments of CAPPS II, and from DOD information concerning Pentagon involvement in the screening system. Neither agency has completed processing the requests, despite their agreement to "expedite" the process. DHS, as the parent department of TSA, is named as a defendant. It is believed that today's lawsuit is the first FOIA case to be filed against the new homeland security agency.

While TSA has repeatedly issued public assurances that privacy rights of air passengers will be respected, it has not disclosed any internal documents assessing the potential privacy or civil liberties impact of CAPPS II. Nor has the Pentagon revealed the extent of its technical assistance to TSA, despite an e-mail message from a top TSA official to Admiral John Poindexter seeking details about the Total Information Awareness system under development at Poindexter's Information Awareness Office within DOD. EPIC obtained a copy of that message through an earlier lawsuit against TSA.

"Millions of air passengers may soon have vast amounts of their personal data scrutinized by CAPPS II," said David Sobel, EPIC's General Counsel. "It is time for the government to be more forthcoming about this system and its likely impact on privacy rights." Sobel noted that EPIC successfully sought the disclosure of information about the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness system in an earlier case against DOD, and that the CAPPS II program appears to be closer to actual implementation. "CAPPS II is the government data-mining initiative that will likely affect the public in the near future, so the details need to disclosed and debated," he said.

EPIC's lawsuit has been assigned to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is case number 03-CV-1255.

The complaint is available at:

A copy of the e-mail exchange between TSA and Adm. John Poindexter is available at:

EPIC Air Travel Privacy Page | EPIC Home Page

Last Updated: June 11, 2003
Page URL: http://www.epic.org/privacy/airtravel/capps2-suit-pr.html