The first release of documents from ‘Papers Please.org’s‘ FOIA request for records of police and govt access to Amtrak reservation data show that Amtrak is giving police root access and a dedicated user interface to mine passenger data for general state and law enforcement purposes and is lying to passengers about it.
Papers Please. Org’s FOIA request was prompted by Amtrak’s obviously incomplete response to an earlier FOIA request from the ACLU. That response omitted any mention of Homeland Security’s (DHS) access to Amtrak reservation data. Even though we’ve seen records of Amtrak profiling passengers and denying DHS involvement. The documents were clearly responsive to the ACLU’s request, and should have been included in Amtrak’s response to that request.
The first release to Papers Please by Amtrak includes a few documents: a 2004 letter from US Customs and Border Potection (CBP) to the Amtrak Police legal department, requesting “voluntary” provision by Amtrak to CBP of Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) identification data about all passengers on international Amtrak trains, and a 2004-2005 project summary and scoping document for the work that would be required by Amtrak’s IT department to automate the collection, maintenance in Amtrak’s “ARROW” passenger reservation database, and deliver the data to customs (DHS).
Amtrak’s reservation database is being collected by a PRIVATE corporation that spies on you and forwards it to the govt! Remember your tax dollars are being used to pay for this B.S. and they’re laughing all the way to the bank!
The letter from CBP notes that as of 2004, Amtrak was faxing passenger manifests for its international trains to CBP. The letter notes that legal mandates for provision of passenger information to CBP “do not currently extend to land modes of transportation, such as rail”, but also points out that, “The law does include a requirement that the government assess the feasibility of extending the requirements to land transportation.”
At least one Senator has called for the the extension to Amtrak of the Secure Flight system of surveillance and control of air travelers, and DHS has said that “CBP is pursuing ‘All Modes‘ APIS legislative authority to clarify its broad authority to mandate the transmission of manifest information, including all international rail and bus travel.” But no such legislation has been approved, and any participation in such a scheme by Amtrak, like the ongoing provision of APIS data about Amtrak passengers to CBP, remains voluntary.
The project summary prepared by Amtrak’s ID department says categorically, however, that, “Information pertaining to passengers and crewmembers traveling across the U.S./Canadian border is required by the DHS.”
Was Amtrak’s ID department lying about whether this was required? Or were they misled by Amtrak Police about the state of the law? There would have been little reason, however, for programmers to lie, in their internal IT planning documents, about what they thought the law required. It’s much more likely that the Amtrak Police misled other Amtrak departments as to what the law required — probably fearing that Amtrak programmers and other operational staff might resist “voluntarily” spying on their customers and passengers.
Amtrak is also way behind in responding to FOIA requests, for disciplinary records related to misconduct by Amtrak Police.
Amtrak’s even hiding passenger complaints about lounge car service, click here to read more.