DHS Report Built With
Private Passengers' Info?
jetBlue is taking the heat for giving its passenger data
('P&Rs' as they call PNRs) to an outfit called Torch Concepts,
in Huntsville (AL). [I called jetBlue's Vice President, Corporate
Communications, Gareth Edmundson-Jones, and left messages at his
office and on his cell phone. I explained that I had the report,
and that the report listed home addresses, dates of birth, and
social security numbers; and that it cited jetBlue as the source of
those data. He had not called back, by press time. Earlier, in a
Wired report, he was quoted: "That's not public
When the TSA (now part of Department of Homeland Security)
started gathering passenger information, to refine its
plausibly-deniable CAPPS II program, it needed some patsy airlines
to share passenger demographics.
Bill Scannell, whose research
fingered Delta (and subsidiary Song) earlier this year as helping
TSA with their dirty work [we understand that the Delta/Song
connection to the TSA is severed, for now --ed.], tells us
that jetBlue has been in on the snooping project all along,
forwarding data on some five milion PAX.
Terrorist profile relatively easy to spot:
We were not able to verify with jetBlue, but what looks like a Torch paper delivered to
National Defense Industrial Association membership on February 25,
2003, says the five million passengers' data wasn't enough to get
definitive on what to look for. Their indicators, according to the
paper, were that the TSA should look at what they called,
"passenger satbility indicators." These included, according to
Torch's paper, Social Security Number [the integrity thereof],
length-of-residence, income, and home ownership. Their predictions
could be improved considerably if they were to know the suspect's
annual mileage and their lifetime mileage.
There's good news, though: the bottom line is that,
"Known Airline Terrorists Appear Readily Distinguishable
from the Normal jetBlue Passenger Patterns." To some
That means that, if
you're a rich homeowner who has lived at the same place for years,
and your SSN (credit report, criminal history) checks out, you're
probably going to get probed less-often than the undocumentable,
unstable, transient riffraff that usually join terrorist ranks.
Torch takes the heat, by denying everything.
We wanted to give Torch a chance to give us their side of the
story. They didn't take it. I called Don
Holder, President of Torch Technologies. [The
letterhead on the report says, "Torch Concepts," but a company
press release, excerpted below, explains the connection.] He denied
that his company had anything to do with the published report.
"It's not my work," he said. [Technically, that may be true,
behind a lawyerly twist. The work is possibly the product of
Rorke (one telephone extension higher on the company
phone book -- he's the CEO), whose name is linked to it. I left a
message for Rorke. He did not return the call.]
I went to Mr. Holder with an easier question: "You're not Torch
Concepts?" He said, "No." [Funny... same phone number.]
His memory, it seemed, wasn't working too well, so I asked one
more: "You've never done any work for Homeland Security?"
He replied, "No." Then he added, "Thank you," and hung up,
without explaining why I was being thanked.
The Torch website
explains the relationship: "Roy Nichols, Chairman of Torch
Concepts, Inc. announced today that effective Oct, 1, 2002, Torch
Concepts will establish a defense engineering subsidiary named
Torch Technologies, Inc. Torch Technologies will provide
engineering services and Torch products for the defense and
intelligence markets." Further explanation, farther down the same
paragraph, says, "Mr. Nichols went on to say that Torch’s
technology is being successfully used in counter-terrorism and
missile defense applications."
There is a report, ostensibly by Torch Concepts
and presented to the NDIA, that says jetBlue provided data for a
study done for the DHS. The TSA's minister of Truth and
Enlightenment, Brian Turmail (who thinks the TSA is catching a lot of axe
murderers), the guy who wrote such gems as, "Move over Gucci and Donna Karan.
This season, all eyes are on Yves St. L’Orange, Versquashi,
and Calvin Lime!," before getting his so-serious gig at TSA), was
quoted elsewhere as saying the data that were being crunched were
"fake." [If Torch received five million sets of fake data, it
didn't need jetBlue to make them up; yet jetBlue's VP doesn't deny
the transfer -- he says only that it's "not public."] Torch's
president just about says his company doesn't exist, among
other questionable claims. The TSA has denied to us all along that
CAPPS II even exists; and DHS won't call back, either.
Those who are talking, don't seem to be getting the story right;
and the rest aren't even talking. My head hurts; you decide.