February 18, 2004

A group of 22 members of Congress sent a letter to the Transportation Security Administration last Friday, detailing civil-rights concerns over the administration's proposed Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System II (CAPPS II). The group, led by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), said the TSA has not assured the public that the administration will not rely on medical, religious, political or racial data when conducting passenger risk assessments. Also, the group feared CAPPS II could be broadened for use in bus stations, highway tollbooths and public-event venues. The letter came a day after the General Accounting Office published a report critical of CAPPS II, raising similar concerns over the TSA's handling of personal data. The group is asking that the program be suspended indefinitely until the civil-liberty concerns are addressed.

Hoping to rebound from last year's SARS outbreak and ensuing drop in tourism, Ontario's government last week announced it will spend $22.8 million to sell the province to still-wary vacationers and conventioneers. "Organizations, municipalities and meeting coordinators are entitled to apply for money under the program," said a spokesperson for the Ontario Minister of Tourism. Of the money, $13 million is earmarked to develop more convention business by promoting specific events and destinations across Ontario. The remaining money is for direct advertising of the province in the U.S. and around the world. Prior to the SARS outbreak in Toronto, which killed 44 people there, tourism in Ontario generated an estimated $15.2 billion annually; the initiative is aimed at getting back to these pre-SARS revenue levels.