The Non-Sequitur

Kevin Drum writes a bit about the latest in secret data mining programs, the Automated Targeing System that has been assigning Americans secret “risk scores” based on “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.” Reading the article, I was struck by something. The authors of the piece spend about a page and a half explaining the program and quoting critics. Their criticisms are pretty clear — they’re concerned that there’s no oversight of this program and that it works in secret, so citizens have know opportunity to check or correct their risk rating. Then comes the response:

The Homeland Security Department says the nation’s ability to spot criminals and other security threats “would be critically impaired without access to this data.”

And this is how it always goes with this administration, isn’t it? That’s totally non-response to the actual criticisms. Obviously, neither you, I, Kevin, nor the ACLU has any way to say whether or not criminal-spotting capabilities “would be criticially impaired without access to this data” because the entire program operates in secrecy not subjected to any kind of oversight, corrections, or outside scrutiny. And that’s what people were complaining about!

Meanwhile, I wonder if “past one-way travel” makes you more or less of a risk? I’ve taken a fair number of one-way flights in the past.