Inside, red digital clocks on the walls showed the time in Istanbul, Baghdad, Islamabad, Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, and Sydney. Although billboard-size video screens on the walls showed multiple cable news shows, there was little noise in the basketball-court-sized main workroom. Each desk had dual computer screens and earphones to hear the video soundtrack. Conferences were held in smaller workrooms divided by glass walls from the windowless main room.
Round the clock, the targeters from Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency analyze information from multiple sources, not just ATS. They compare names to terrorist watch lists and mine the Treasury Enforcement Communications System and other automated systems that bring data about cargo, travelers and commercial workers entering or leaving the 317 U.S. ports, searching for suspicious people and cargo.
Almost every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is assessed based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.
Government officials could not say whether ATS has apprehended any terrorists. Based on all the information available to them, federal agents turn back about 45 foreign criminals a day at U.S. borders, according to Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection spokesman Bill Anthony. He could not say how many were spotted by ATS.
Officials described how the system works: applying rules learned from experience with the activities and characteristics of terrorists and criminals to the traveler data. But they would not describe in detail the format in which border agents see the results or in which the databases store the results of the ATS risk assessments.
Acting Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Paul Rosenzweig told reporters Friday they could call it scoring. "It can be reduced to a number," he said, but he clearly preferred the longer description about how the rules are used.
On the Net:
DHS privacy impact statement: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_cbp_ats.pdf
Associated Press writers Leslie Miller and Beverley Lumpkin contributed to this report.
Virtually every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is scored by the Homeland Security Department's Automated Targeting System.
"The government is accessing entire buckets of data without a warrant" and without specific suspicion of particular individuals.
The Automated Targeting System for Passengers is a "warrantless well of evidence from which any law enforcement, regulatory or intelligence agency could dip at will -- without any probable cause...
European and U.S. privacy advocates say air passenger screening violates accord.