Blown To Bits

What Homeland Security Has On You

Thursday, January 8th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

Travel writer Sean O’Neill went to the trouble of getting his Department of Homeland Security file, with records of information collected as a result of his international files. His report is here, and if you click on the image of a page, you can see what his record looks like. DHS redacted some of its internal annotations, and O’Neill has redacted his passport number and the like, but you can see a few interesting details — for example, that the airlines retain, and then pass on to the Feds for inclusion in their database, the IP address from which the reservation was made. Perhaps some help after the fact in tracing his movements and movements of funds if O’Neill does something evil, but a bit creepy for those of us who wonder how useful these dossiers are for preventing anything.

As Bruce Schneier emphasizes in the book I blogged about recently, bad guys almost never get caught at the airport as the result of security screenings. They get identified ahead of time by old-fashioned police work. Whatever is in the dossier that got O’Neill pulled aside for questioning — as has happened to him — the dossier doesn’t reveal it.

The article gives very precise instructions for getting a copy of your own file. Not sure I really want to know what’s in it, but I should!

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