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Amtrak asks TSA to screen its passengers against DHS watchlist

Apr 07, 2022 1:00 am

Mark Albert is reporting for the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit Amtrak has asked the Transportation Security Administration to start screening some of its passengers against the 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 document. The DHS Privacy Impact Assessment acquired by Hearst disclosed the existence of a rail passenger watchlist screening program. The program was previously unreported. It 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. If the TSA finds any matches, the agency says it would provide Amtrak with statistical, but anonymous results purged of passenger names, at least for the initial stage. But in the same document, the department notes that the information gathered could be used for other purposes, including that potential and confirmed matches may be shared “with other law enforcement agencies pursuant to established routine uses.” Currently, airline passengers can opt-out of watchlist screening by choosing not to fly. However, Amtrak passengers apparently will not have that option. Amtrak routes go through 46 of the 50 states and New York had the country's highest ridership with people getting on and off Amtrak trains statewide more than 13 million times in 2019, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The Albany-Rensselaer station was the ninth busiest nationwide with passengers entering and exiting Amtrak trains there more than 800,000 times that year. The new rail passenger screening is slated to begin once Amtrak discloses the policy to passengers in its online privacy policy. Currently, that webpage has not been updated since November. The data collected by the TSA will be retained for two years, the document says. Read more in the Times Union.