The New Berlin Wall

Who ever thought they would be living in a “Homeland”? I suspect not many World War II vets.

Proposed Law Would Turn US Borders Into Unblinking Eyes With A Thirst For Human DNA
by Tim Cushing, Tech Dirt
Wed, Aug 16th 2017

Some senators are looking to turn US borders into the equivalent of London: cameras everywhere and a host of new incursions into travelers’ and visitors’ privacy. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica “outed” the not-yet-introduced bill — titled “Building America’s Trust Act” [wtf] — since the supporting lawmakers have yet to formally announce their plans to make the US a worse country to live in, much less visit.

The one-pager [PDF] for the bill [PDF] (which is 186 pages long) makes it clear what the objective is: more surveillance, more boots on the ground, and green lights for law enforcement agencies located anywhere within 100 miles of the nation’s borders. The bill calls for more judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and inspectors, as well as walls, levees, fences — whatever might further separate the US from its bordering neighbors (but only the southern one, apparently).

First off, there will be an increase in aerial surveillance. The bill calls for an increase in manned flight hours, as well as mandating drone flights at least 24 hours a day for five days a week. This would be in addition to increased use of surveillance equipment that can be mounted on vehicles or carried by humans. The DHS will also be allowed to draft the National Guard to perform border patrol duties and construct fences and walls and set up/monitor surveillance equipment.

The list goes on and on. (And on.) Customs and Border Patrol (and any agencies assisting it) will be exempted from 30 state and federal laws governing (among other things) use of public land should it be determined these ecology-protecting statutes “interfere” with the CBP’s border patrolling efforts. The bill would also exempt border security efforts from the normal federal bidding process, allowing agencies to use non-competitive means to hire employees and source contractors. The bill would also raise staffing levels, providing for signing bonuses of up to $10,000 per new hire and an expanded waiver of the CBP’s polygraph test requirement.

The law would allow border security agencies to obtain Defense Department surveillance gear, with an eye on round-the-clock surveillance in some form and increased gathering of biometric information.

This will be fed by the DHS’s biometric entry-exit collection, meaning it won’t just be foreign visitors adding to the pile of biometric data. The law calls for the program to be put in place at all high traffic ports of entry (including major airports) within two years. As we’ve seen from previous pilot programs, there’s no good way to ensure US persons aren’t swept up in the biometric scanning. All we have are assurances these “inadvertent” collections will be siloed off from the DHS’s foreigner collection.

Customs authorities will also be given power to demand biometric info from visa applicants and DNA will be collected from all detained immigrants, whether or not they’re criminally charged. This information will then be shared with the State Department and the FBI.

From there, the law adds other politically-charged stipulations, like an entire subsection entitled “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act.” Also of note: the bill would allow law enforcement to seize everything from cash to bitcoins if they’re suspected to be “criminal proceeds.” It also strips away any mens rea protection from accusations of money laundering, allowing the government to seize money/charge suspects with a federal crime whether or not they knowingly engaged in criminal activity.

The whole package is basically a 186 pages of surveillance expansion and xenophobic legalese. The sole benefit of the bloated bill is it consolidates so many anti-foreigner objectives into a single PDF, saving opponents the trouble of having to track a few dozen similarly-minded bills. The limits on the collection and use of biometric data are almost nonexistent and there’s nothing in it specifically ordering agencies to keep US citizens out of the data pile. A number of law enforcement agencies have already offered their endorsement of the bill, suggesting it’s spent some time being circulated among proponents. Now, it’s in the hands of the rest of the county where it’s unlikely to see as unqualified support. It’s a Patriot Act but for the border — a hysteria-based bill that panders to the president’s desires.

I disagree with Tim Cushing in this- not only is there “no good way to ensure US persons aren’t swept up in the biometric scanning” it is in fact precisely the point. Of course there’s “nothing in it specifically ordering agencies to keep US citizens out of the data pile”, that’s a feature- not a bug.

Remember the Berlin Wall was never about keeping NATO Forces out, it would have been totally useless for that, defeated in minutes.

It was to keep the East Germans trapped.

1 comment

  1. Vent Thole

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