The TSA Has Your Reading List

According to the Washington Post, the TSA is compiling extensive traveler records that can track passenger reading preferences. The Automated Targeting System is ostensibly designed to help officials ferret out terrorists; citizens who recently asked the government for records of their travel found that the databases also contains: “a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.” Our government’s long maw even reaches abroad to gather information on flights that don’t brush against U.S. airspace.

Ann Harrison, the communications director for a technology firm in Silicon Valley who was among those who obtained their personal files and provided them to The Post, said she was taken aback to see that her dossier contained data on her race and on a European flight that did not begin or end in the United States or connect to a U.S.-bound flight.

“It was surprising that they were gathering so much information without my knowledge on my travel activities, and it was distressing to me that this information was being gathered in violation of the law,” she said.

James P. Harrison, director of the Identity Project and Ann Harrison’s brother, obtained government records that contained another sister’s phone number in Tokyo as an emergency contact. “So my sister’s phone number ends up being in a government database,” he said. “This is a lot more than just saying who you are, your date of birth.”

That explains how the TSA knows you’re gay.

Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented [Washington Post]
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Aldoman says:

    Are we able to ask for a copy of our records if we are not citizens? I mean if I had a red flag I would not had been let into the states last thursday, but I hate when the government collects such personal informations, specially if it is not my government…

  2. azntg says:

    My, you’re huge Big Brother! Please don’t eat us!

  3. Bay State Darren says:

    Wow. TSA’s incompetent at screening for weapons but they can pull this off? So should another terrorist hijacking occur (in case al-Qeida’s stuck in a rut), we’ll know that the perps were doing crosswords before puling out their weapons.

    [15 months left…15 months till he’s gone and this madness might just end!]

  4. amejr999 says:

    The article seems to indicate that it is CBP that is doing this, not TSA. I sent my Privacy Act/FOIA request to them yesterday.

  5. darkclawsofchaos says:

    the post where they confiscate the pudding and not the swiss army knife is funnier, this is just dumb, yes privacy is invaded, but so what is if so guy reads the Anarchist Cookbook, most likely he is so idiot trying to act cool, no real terrorist is that dumb, well not the organized ones

  6. alhypo says:

    I don’t travel much, but if I did I would certainly start carrying the most questionable books I could find, even if I have no intention of ever reading them. I know it would probably impede my progress through security, but if enough people did likewise, it would completely invalidate their system (not to suggest it has and validity to begin with). I’m tired of this useless bullshit they try. I’m fairly certain that any remotely competent terrorist is not going to carry around books that might expose him.

    Anyone else with me on this? Maybe we can start a coalition of travelers who resolve to carry “subversive” material whenever they travel.

  7. jbalsle says:

    Last time we flew, my wife had a book about BDSM in her backpack, plus a sexy goth outfit she wore to a club in New Orleans, which itself looked rather BDSM in nature. When she came back, a friend of hers in New Orleans gave her a book on women seducing other women. Too bad they never said anything about it. That would have been so funny.

  8. saltmine says:

    I just filed both a PA and FOIA request with TSA. You can do the same by emailing them at:

    Here are the instructions on how to file:


    On the website they say you’ll get a response within 4-5 days as well as a tracking number. Let’s see how this goes…I’ve flown a LOT for work, and a lot of those were one-way flights which got me “randomly selected,” so I’m interested to know what kind of gossip they have on me…

  9. ivealwaysgotmail10 says:

    @alhypo: Soooo down… Im carrying the Canibible next time i travel

    Suggested Reading material

    Eat Thy Neighbor: A History of Cannibalism (Hardcover)

    Satanic Bible (Mass Market Paperback)

    Or you could just draw Very disturbed pictures ina very tattered looking journal and wear Whited out contacts…. but that may be going too far.

    Look out for the next headline “Reader gets stunned By TSA Agents for questionable reading”

    i dont even know what would happen if you were reading a copy of this post… … maybe it would rupture the space time continuum?

  10. Bay State Darren says:

    I don’t fly much, but next time I’m bringing my copy of 1984.

    BTW, anyone wanna buy a copy of my forthcoming title, Leave Me Alone, TSA Gestapo! ? Sure the pages are all blank on the inside but still, it’s a good book.

  11. thepounder says:

    @alhypo: I’m definitely with you on this.
    I’m in Iraq at the moment but when I head back home I’ll be carrying The Life & Death of Adolf Hitler. If I’m done with that book by the time I head home I’ll likey try to finish Mein Kampf on the flight. Both long books and I read really slow, so it’s a lengthy project. ;)

  12. FLConsumer says:

    Don’t forget a copy of The Final Exit… great AIRPLANE reading material to keep next to your Q’uran.

  13. 82300sd says:

    Of course well all know that real terrorists carry electronic pdf books on their laptops now, so this is a completely useless way on how to spot a terrorist. Of course anyone terrorist dumb enough to carry “how to hijack a plane, a step by step illustrated guide” is just too dumb to hijack a plane anyway.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @thepounder: Dude, no protest is worth reading Mein Kampf for. Unless you’re looking to sleep on the plane, in which case, go for it.

  15. FLConsumer says:

    How about “Airport Security for Dummies”?

  16. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    How to make Liquid Explosive from 3 oz. or less of Typical Hair Care Products
    My Big Book of Homemade Chemical Agents
    Afghanistan on Five Shekels a Day

    and of course
    When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?

  17. ViperBorg says:

    @Bay State Darren: I’ll take 5!

  18. magus_melchior says:

    @Bay State Darren: “[15 months left…15 months till he’s gone and this madness might just end!]”
    With the expanded powers that the executive has taken, I’m not sure that any of the candidates will agree to reduce them once in office.

    Oh, sure, they might promise to do so, but you do remember Bush Sr. saying “no new taxes”, right?