Amtrak Asks TSA To Check Passengers Against No Fly List

For years, advocates of the security state dismissed civil rights concerns over intrusive TSA searches and requirements that air passengers show their papers by suggesting people have a choice – that this is all optional – they could take the train instead.

No more. The government’s rail corporation, Amtrak, has now asked the TSA to check passengers lists against the No Fly List. It could become no train travel list, too.

Amtrak has asked the TSA to start screening some of its passengers against the Terrorist Screening Database watchlist maintained by the Threat Screening Center to see if known or suspected terrorists have been riding the rails, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security privacy impact document obtained by the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit.

The program, part of the Amtrak Rail Passenger Threat Assessment and which has not been previously reported, would compare personal passenger information from Amtrak – which may also later include a traveler’s “publicly available social media” profiles viewed by DHS personnel – to the government’s terrorist screening database.

They’re starting with historical analysis and plan to report to Amtrak on the extent to which people on the No Fly List have been riding rail (what they’re supposed to do more or less). However, the plan is to share matches “with other law enforcement agencies pursuant to established routine uses.”

People have been known to make it onto these government lists by accident (an FBI agent checks the wrong box by mistake). People have gotten on the list as retaliation for refusing to work as a snitch. And people have been confused for people who are on the list. So those of you who dismiss this as simply targeting ‘bad people’ despite the lack of due process or judicial review miss the point.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I really don’t know where to start on this except for saying it shows just how sick and fearful those with a little power can be. Perhaps they have too much time on their hands and feel they have to do something. And I wonder what they’ll do about people like me who have no social media presence.

    Anyway, when trains start flying into buildings there will be a reason for this. I suppose the next step (planned?) is to put airport type security in every single train station. Of course that won’t mean a thing since any bad person can still do one of several things: plant a bomb on the tracks, fire an RPG or something similar at the engine, or drive a car loaded with explosives into it. I can’t see much point in actually bothering with such terrible actions, but someone being on a train itself shouldn’t be much of a threat.

  2. @drrichard – someone could take a bomb on a train and either kill those on board or explode it in a city as the train passes through. I’m fine with this. There is no constitutional right to any form of transportation

  3. AC–I’m not a Constitutional lawyer (are you?) but in fact in 1941 the Supreme Court upheld the right of free travel in the U.S. as part of national citizenship. See Edwards v. People of State of California. In any case, I just gave 3 ways that far more people could be killed on a train than by just one bomb, and as far as carrying one into a city goes, the easiest would be how McVeigh did it with a rental truck. Assuming the No Fly List was particularly good, which it isn’t, and that any serious terrorist would avoid getting on it, which they would, there is no end to where this sort of paranoid thinking goes. Commuter trains? Intercity buses? Intracity buses? Subways? Rental cars? Car purchases? One can have a police state in no time and be no safer than when they began.

  4. @drichards – I am also not a constitutional lawyer, but just a minute of research shows more recent
    circuit court rulings that [“T] ravelers do not have a constitutional right to the most convenient form of travel, and minor restrictions on travel simply do not amount to the denial of a fundamental right..”

    If Amtrak does the same as airlines there is still the bus and the car.

  5. The creeping surveillance “security” state keeps growing and gaining ground, thereby undermining the very privacy and liberty of movement for people that is critical to allowing for the freedom of association and of speech/expression that is the right of all free people in the US.

  6. I thought the point of a “no fly” list was that some people shouldn’t be allowed to, well, fly. One of the joys of train travel is to NOT have to put with the time consuming, humiliating, and largely ineffective security theater of the TSA. Must we ruin it?

  7. For going on two decades, the point of the no-fly list has not been limited to deny people travel by air. Rather, at times it has been in place for other purposes — including to coerce US citizens or residents into becoming tools of the US surveillance/security state.

  8. I am a constitutional lawyer. The fact that something like the “no-‘fly” list is permitted shows how far down the slippery slope we have slid, apparently, according to the comments, quite willingly.

  9. Amtrak is far more corporate than govt.. Private/Public Partnerships have all proven to benefit the private and harm the public. Amtrak is a shadow of what it once was and could have been. Just look at the USPS in 2022, the Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (no prior USPS experience) is de-constructing the USPS which is protected under the US Constitution (no other govt agency is protected).

    I just just took a roomette cross country trip end of 10/2022 and was put in the “transition” train car where a seat cushion metal wall plate fell on my forehead. Luckily, I only suffered a gash w/ scar but Amtrak has not contacted me after filing an Affidavit with them about my experience. Shameful! Time to file an FTC complaint.

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