gling and illicit weapons development programs will be particularly important in efforts to protect the nation from terrorist attacks using nuclear devices.

Another potential application of improved database systems is identification of trusted users of various systems. For example, in April 2002 the U.S. Customs Service launched the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT).2 C-TPAT “requires importers to take steps to assess, evolve and communicate new practices that ensure tighter security of cargo and enhanced security throughout the entire supply chain. In return, their goods and conveyances will receive expedited processing into the United States.”3 The goal is to provide an incentive to shippers to improve their own security procedures. In this case, good data and data analyses are essential for understanding normal patterns of shipping—and, thus, to know who to trust and who to scrutinize more carefully because of unusual or suspect patterns.

A trusted-fliers program has also been proposed and has been advocated by Governor Tom Ridge, director of the Office of Homeland Security. Frequent airline travelers would provide information about themselves to enable the airlines or the government to perform a background check on them and to know more about the characteristics and circumstances of passenger traffic. The advantage to the “trusted” traveler in providing this information would presumably be faster processing through security checkpoints if the background check indicated a low risk. More important, the information provided by travelers, coupled with data from other public and private sources, could allow the airlines and security authorities to gain a better understanding of normal patterns of travel and to spot unusual and suspect combinations of passengers on single flights and on multiple flights.

Some skepticism about whether this sort of data mining program would be possible or effective has been expressed by Congress, TSA, and the airlines.4 Among the issues: What is the scope of the data that would be gathered? Who would be the users? What legal structures would protect the system’s integrity and limit the potential for misuse? There are also systems-level technical issues that would affect the implementation of such programs.5 To be sure, highly

2  

More details about C-TPAT are available on the U.S. Customs Service Web site at <http://www.customs.gov/enforcem/tpat.htm>.

3  

U.S. Customs Service press release of April 16, 2002.

4  

See Miller, Bill. 2002. “Ridge Pushes Fast-Track ‘Trusted Fliers’ Screening; Lawmakers, Airline Groups Express Doubts,” Washington Post, p. A04, April 23.

5  

The issues associated with identity systems in general are discussed in IDs—Not That Easy: Questions About Nationwide Identity Systems, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2002. The issues will also be explored further in an upcoming CSTB report specifically addressing authentication technologies; see <http://cstb.org/project_authentication>.



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