[Marxism] DHS Plans To Screen All Who Enter, Leave U.S.

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Fri Nov 9 07:13:07 MST 2007

DHS Plans To Screen All Who Enter, Leave U.S.

Posted: November 7th, 2006 10:14 AM EDT

via NewsEdge Corporation

The federal government disclosed details yesterday of a border-security
program to screen all people who enter and leave the United States, create
a terrorism risk profile of each individual and retain that information
for up to 40 years.

The details, released in a notice published yesterday in the Federal
Register, open a new window on the government's broad and often
controversial data-collection effort directed at American and foreign
travelers, which was implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

While long known to scrutinize air travelers, the Department of Homeland
Security is seeking to apply new technology to perform similar checks on
people who enter or leave the country "by automobile or on foot," the
notice said.

The department intends to use a program called the Automated Targeting
System, originally designed to screen shipping cargo, to store and analyze
the data.

"We have been doing risk assessments of cargo and passengers coming into
and out of the U.S.," DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen said. "We have the
authority and the ability to do it for passengers coming by land and sea."

In practice, he said, the government has not conducted risk assessments on
travelers at land crossings for logistical reasons.

"We gather, collect information that is needed to protect the borders,"
Agen said. "We store the information we see as pertinent to keeping
Americans safe."

Civil libertarians expressed concern that risk profiling on such a scale
would be intrusive and would not adequately protect citizens' privacy
rights, issues similar to those that have surrounded systems profiling air

"They are assigning a suspicion level to millions of law-abiding
citizens," said David Sobel, senior counsel of the Electronic Frontier
Foundation. "This is about as Kafkaesque as you can get."

DHS officials said that by publishing the notice, they are simply
providing "expanded notice and transparency" about an existing program
disclosed in October 2001, the Treasury Enforcement Communications System.

But others said Congress has been unaware of the potential of the
Automated Targeting System to assess non-aviation travelers.

"ATS started as a tool to prevent the entry of drugs with cargo into the
U.S.," said one aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of
the sensitivity of the subject. "We are not aware of Congress specifically
legislating to make this expansion possible."

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired
by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), yesterday asked Homeland Security to
brief staff members on the program, Collins's spokeswoman, Jen Burita,

The notice comes as the department is tightening its ability to identify
people at the borders. At the end of the year, for example, Homeland
Security is expanding its Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator
Technology program, under which 32 million noncitizens entering the
country annually are fingerprinted and photographed at 115 airports, 15
seaports and 154 land ports.

Stephen E. Flynn, senior fellow for national security studies at the
Council on Foreign Relations, expressed doubts about the department's
ability to conduct risk assessments of individuals on a wide scale.

He said customs investigators are so focused on finding drugs and weapons
of mass destruction that it would be difficult to screen all individual
border crossers, other than cargo-truck drivers and shipping crews.

"There is an ability in theory for government to cast a wider net," he
said. "The reality of it is customs is barely able to manage the data they

The data-mining program stemmed from an effort in the early 1990s by
customs officials to begin assessing the risk of cargo originating in
certain countries and from certain shippers. Risk assessment turned more
heavily to automated, computer-driven systems after the 2001 attacks.

The risk assessment is created by analysts at the National Targeting
Center, a high-tech facility opened in November 2001 and now run by
Customs and Border Protection.

In a round-the-clock operation, targeters match names against terrorist
watch lists and a host of other data to determine whether a person's
background or behavior indicates a terrorist threat, a risk to border
security or the potential for illegal activity. They also assess cargo.

Each traveler assessed by the center is assigned a numeric score: The
higher the score, the higher the risk. A certain number of points send the
traveler back for a full interview.

The Automated Targeting System relies on government databases that include
law enforcement data, shipping manifests, travel itineraries and airline
passenger data, such as names, addresses, credit card details and phone

The parent program, Treasury Enforcement Communications System, houses
"every possible type of information from a variety of federal, state and
local sources," according to a 2001 Federal Register notice.

It includes arrest records, physical descriptions and "wanted" notices.
The 5.3 billion-record database was accessed 766 million times a day to
process 475 million travelers, according to a 2003 Transportation Research
Board study.

In yesterday's Federal Register notice, Homeland Security said it will
keep people's risk profiles for up to 40 years "to cover the potentially
active lifespan of individuals associated with terrorism or other criminal
activities," and because "the risk assessment for individuals who are
deemed low risk will be relevant if their risk profile changes in the
future, for example, if terrorist associations are identified."

DHS will keep a "pointer or reference" to the underlying records that
resulted in the profile.

The DHS notice specified that the Automated Targeting System does not call
for any new means of collecting information but rather for the use of
existing systems. The notice did not spell out what will determine whether
someone is high risk.

But documents and former officials say the system relies on hundreds of
"rules" to factor a score for each individual, vehicle or piece of cargo.

According to yesterday's notice, the program is exempt from certain
requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974 that allow, for instance, people
to access records to determine "if the system contains a record pertaining
to a particular individual" and "for the purpose of contesting the content
of the record."

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