JetBlue CEO Answers Aero-News
by Tim Kern
Last week was a tough
one for jetBlue, as allegations and possible evidence of the
airline's collaboration with the DHS and TSA came up. We printed
our preliminary information on
Wednesday; later Wednesday, the airline's Vice President of
Corporate Communications got back to me. That response was published Thursday.
By Friday night, Tom Brokaw was talking about the beginning of the
story on NBC.
I asked jetBlue, through that company's website:
I would like an explanation of how jetBlue's PNR data,
shared with DoD, got to your contractor, Torch Concepts (Torch
Technologies), and then into a paper for the National Defense
Industrial Association, which was posted to the Internet.
The report contains SSNs, DoB, and home address
1) When DoD transfered this information to Torch, what
safeguards did you employ?
2) What permission did you give Torch, to publish this
3) Why would what is presumed to be private information allowed to
be used in a public association forum; and did DoD give the NDIA
permission to release the information on the web?
4) Torch denies ever working for DHS, yet its paper, delivered by
Bill Rorke (their CEO) is titled, "Homeland Security: Airline
Passenger Risk Assessment." Is DoD supplying citizen dossiers to
the DHS, directly or indirectly?
5) What other programs is our military (which is supposed to
protect us) working on, that can, through the negligence of
government or government agents, harm us?
Perhaps you have an answer to at least some of these
questions. Please let me know. Thank you.
We got the last word,
and directly from the top:
Dear Mr. Kern,
Thank you for writing to JetBlue so that I have an opportunity
to apologize to you personally and set the record straight.
Most importantly, JetBlue has never supplied, nor will supply,
customer information to the Transportation Security Administration,
or any government agency, unless we are required to do so by law --
not for CAPPS II or for any other purposes, whatsoever.
However, I regret that,
more than a year ago, we responded to an exceptional request from
the Department of Defense to assist their contractor, Torch
Concepts, with a project regarding military base
security. This project had no connection with aviation
security or the CAPPS II program and no data files were ever shared
with the Department of Defense or any other government agency or
We provided limited historical customer data including names,
addresses and phone numbers. It DID NOT include personal
financial information, credit card information, or social security
Torch further developed this information into a presentation,
without JetBlue's knowledge, for a Department of Homeland Security
We regret that this presentation included the personal
information of one customer -- although the customer's name was not
used. Again, we had no knowledge of this presentation until
[your report surfaced] and we were deeply dismayed to learn of
The sole set of data in Torch's possession has been destroyed;
no government agency ever had access to it. With Torch's help,
we are continuing to make every effort to have the Torch
presentation with the one customer's information removed from the
This was a mistake on
our part and I know you and many of our customers feel betrayed by
it. We deeply regret that this happened and have taken steps
to fix the situation and make sure that it never happens again.
I am saddened that we have shaken your faith in JetBlue but I
assure you personally that we are committed to making this
Sincerely, David Neeleman, Chief Executive Officer
We thank Mr. Neeleman, and jetBlue, for their forthright
communications; and we caution other entities to be
extremely careful about their sharing data with "secure"
elements of the government.