Want to Know Your Terror Score? Too Bad, Says TSA

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Are you a vegetarian who prefers to sit near the front of the plane? If so, prepare to be harassed. CNN recently uncovered that the Homeland Security Department’s Automated Targeting System [ATS] assigns a terrorist rating number to every single person entering or leaving the United States. The score is based on the passenger’s method of payment, one-way flights, meal preferences, seat assignment, e-mail address, voluntary and involuntary upgrade history, and frequent flier miles. But unlike a credit score, it cannot be challenged or even viewed by the individual. And the score will stay on file for 40 years.

This might not be such a huge problem if passengers’ ATS numbers weren’t going to be made available to state agencies, students, and private contractors, among others. Theoretically, if a person is, say, denied a job at a post office or a construction company because of their terror score, they’ll never know and they’ll never be able to challenge it.

Given that many infants have been harassed at airports because they have similar names to terrorists, the chance that the ATS scores and information will be misused seems high. And, with the ATS’s new headquarters and a staff that’s tripled since 2001, it seems we can expect even more searches and baseless groundings.

—Jen Phillips

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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