Senator Roberts: Department of Transportation Priorities Backwards; Senator Roberts: Department of Transportation Priorities Backwards; Uses Weak Justification for Violation of Privacy and Security of Americans
PoliticalNews.me - Sep 02,2011 - Senator Roberts: Department of Transportation Priorities Backwards; Uses Weak Justification for Violation of Privacy and Security of Americans
LENEXA, KS – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts released a disturbing letter from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, that claims the vague principles of government openness are more important to enforce than protecting the privacy and security concerns of Americans using general aviation.
The letter was in response to a bipartisan letter signed by 26 Senators that Roberts and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) sent to Secretary LaHood opposing a recent proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to eliminate the Block Aircraft Registration Request program (BARR), the current privacy protection for general aviation pilots. In effect, this would allow anyone, anywhere to access general aviation aircraft movements in real-time.
Roberts wants to maintain the status quo where the BARR program prevents unauthorized, non-governmental actors from knowing the location and movements of private citizens.
“I find it troubling that the Obama administration would associate removing the BARR program with the need for greater transparency,” said Roberts “Transparency has everything to do with citizens being able to see how the government carries out its business, not the other way around,” said Sen. Roberts. “Maintaining the BARR program has everything to do with an individual’s Constitutional right to privacy, and I will continue to fight for all private citizens’ right to travel and conduct business without having to worry about who is spying on them.”
The letter can be found here: Secretary LaHood Response
This line in the Secretary’s response was especially troubling to Roberts: “In light of the significant public investment in NAS (National Airspace System), a number of Government transparency and information sharing laws and policies support greater awareness of the system’s day-to-day functioning.”
Senator Roberts said, “This sets a dangerous precedent. There is significant public investment in our highway system but we do not publicize private citizen’s movements on the interstate. There is significant public investment in our schools and colleges but we don’t release identifying information about students enrolled in classes. The examples could go on and on.”
The Secretary’s letter said, “information that is released to the general public is not real-time data; rather, it is historical information that is delayed by at least five minutes.”
Senator Roberts said, “I don’t know where you can fly anywhere in five minutes. This remains a security and privacy concern for pilots.”
Earlier this month, Roberts introduced a bill S. 1477, the BARR Preservation Act of 2011, to prevent DOT from ending the BARR program.
“The Department of Transportation is bizarrely using government transparency as an excuse to unravel a successful program protecting the privacy of thousands of Americans,” Roberts said. “These priorities are backwards.”