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09/22/2003 Archived Entry: "JetBlue"

The Boondocks cartoon "'AWOL' Bush Action Figure" is particularly hard hitting in light of the announcement that more national guard troops are likely to be shipped to Iraq in short order. "A senior military official at U.S. Central Command says at least two more of the Army National Guard's 15 enhanced combat brigades, which have about 5,000 troops each, are likely to be activated this fall for service in Iraq next year." (BTW, the Action Figure cartoon spins off a real action doll of Bush -- The Elite Force Aviator action figure. Are we to be spared nothing?) Meanwhile, the Pentagon wants to cut the hazardous duty bonus offered to those National Guard troops already in Iraq. "US troops serving in Iraq and their families are in a financial no man's land--wondering if bonuses given to them for their hazardous duty will be cut. The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of 148-thousand U.S. troops in Iraq--because the 300 million dollar annual price tag is a budget buster." Funds for the bonuses apparently run out on October 1st.

On the domestic scene -- and, again, in the spirit of much-needed levity -- I quote from The Onion. I quote in full because, even tho' I am an avid fan of the site, it is notoriously unreliable in terms of preserving URL links. New Items in Brief: "Revised Patriot Act Will Make It Illegal To Read Patriot Act. WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush spoke out Monday in support of a revised version of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that would make it illegal to read the USA Patriot Act. 'Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism, including the public's access to information about how the federal police will investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism,' Bush said at a press conference Monday. 'For the sake of the American people, I call on Congress to pass this important law prohibiting access to itself." Bush also proposed extending the rights of states to impose the death penalty "in the wake of Sept. 11 and stuff'."

As a staunch privacy advocate, I was horrified that the NY-based JetBlue Airways provided 5 million passenger itineraries -- along with names, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card numbers -- to a defense contractor in Sept. '02 for a proof-of-concept test on a Pentagon project which was intended to identify "high risk" airline passengers; the defense contractor, Torch Concepts, was/is working with the Transportation Security Administration. Torch then augmented the data with Social Security numbers and other sensitive personal information, including income level, to develop what looks to be a study of whether passenger-profiling systems such as CAPPS II are feasible. Of course, in a September 15th 2003 interview with Wired, TSA spokesman Brian Turmail said that, to date, CAPPS II had been tested only on fake passenger data.

JetBlue's action violated its own stated privacy policy which, arguably, is an implied contract with ticket purchasers. I was relieved at the huge backlash of disapproval erupting from its customers, so huge that JetBlue took the unusual step of sending email apologies to them, claiming that the data JetBlue provided was not shared with any government agency and that Torch has destroyed the passenger records. (Yeah...as tho' Torch would have hesitated to share data with the agency that hired it or be candid about the records now that the word "lawyer" has entered the dialogue. "At least one of JetBlue's customers has already spoken to lawyers and privacy groups to discuss a possible lawsuit against JetBlue." And what about that earlier bald lie from TSA Brian Turmail?)) The Internet played a pivotal role in bringing this privacy and probable rights violation to light; privacy activist Bill Scannell broke the story on his Web site Don't Spy on Us.

Many people are arriving at the same conclusion as Bob Smith in his recommended blog "No Force, No Fraud": September 19th entry, entitled "Scratch one air traveller." Welcome aboard the airline boycott Bob...but what took you so long? On 08/13/02, my website McBlog declared, The result? "My husband and I will not fly whenever a viable alternative exists, even if the alternative adds a day onto each side of travelling, there and back. Or is more expensive. Our civil liberties are worth it. Our self-respect demands it. We are part of a silent, spreading boycott of air travel that is not motivated by fear of terrorism but anger at being man-handled, humiliated, and treated like criminals by airport personnel who function like the dull-eyed, unthinking lackeys of a police state. The boycott is not organized. Rather, it is grassroot...one by one, in every corner of North America, individuals are deciding for themselves that enough is enough. We are customers, not criminals." But, like I said, welcome aboard! And forgive the bloggish one-up(wo)manship. ;-)

Best to all,

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