WASHINGTON — Under pressure from Congress and the public, the Homeland Security Department has extended the time for people to comment on its computerized risk assessment system for international travelers, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The deadline was pushed back from Monday to Dec. 29, spokesman Jarrod Agen said.
By Tuesday, the department had received 59 public comments. All but one either opposed the system outright as a violation of privacy and other laws or called for better means for people to correct any errors in the data.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who will become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in January, wrote Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seeking extension of the comment period.
Based on a briefing that committee staff received about the system Friday, Thompson wrote that "serious concerns have arisen that, with respect to U.S. citizens and possibly lawful permanent aliens, some elements of ATS as practiced may constitute violations of privacy or civil rights."
The Associated Press reported Thursday that for four years Customs and Border Protection agents have been using the Automatic Targeting System, or ATS, to produce assessments of the risk that any of the millions of people crossing U.S. borders, including Americans, are terrorists or criminals.
Almost every traveler entering or leaving the country is evaluated by the ATS computers, but they are not allowed to see the assessment of them or directly challenge its accuracy.