Trust Us

Or maybe not (from the WSJ):

In a disclosure likely to rekindle privacy-concern fires, AMR Corp.’s American Airlines admitted giving information on 1.2 million passengers to outside research companies vying for contracts with the Transportation Security Administration.

American is the third airline to acknowledge disclosing private passenger records, developments that have alarmed privacy advocates and drawn scrutiny from Congress and government investigators. In September, JetBlue Airways said it turned over passenger records to a defense contractor, and later apologized. And in January, Northwest Airlines said it secretly passed travelers’ records to the government.

The disclosures of passenger records revolve around government efforts to boost air-transportation security following the 2001 terrorist attacks. The TSA, charged with aviation security, has been trying to develop more-effective passenger-screening systems, using information collected on customers by airlines.

Domestic security remains unserious. It is typified by overzealous attempts by government agencies to mine error-filled private databases, by jockeying for lucrative government contracts on the part of security firms claiming to offer bureaucrats painless ways to find terrorists without getting sued, and by private-sector executives who leap at chances to violate the trust of their customers. Meanwhile most of the real security is provided by airline passengers, by alert individual police officers and other government agents who perform informal profiling of suspicious people, and of course by the military, whose success overseas is the main thing that keeps us safe at home.