Thursday, December 29, 2011

Biometrics Without Borders

Border Identification Systems Now Set To Encompass American Citizens

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
December 27, 2011

In what is a classic case of Orwellian double-think (at least at the level of the general public), the American borders, while remaining wide open to virtually every illegal immigrant wishing to cross, are also providing the U.S. government with justification for increasing tyranny under the guise of border security.
After years of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration or, in some cases, aiding and abetting the process, “concerns” about the security of American borders have provided the American people with “Constitution-Free Zones,” Border Patrol check points close to one hundred miles away from the actual borders, and laws that give state governments the right to demand the “papers” from law-abiding citizens. Even the drones that were once so controversial when used in Iraq and Afghanistan are now being used on the U.S. border as well as deep inside the United States with much less opposition than one would have originally thought.
However, with a recent announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it seems we are now able to add one more act of oppression that is being justified by the porous claim of “border security.”
A recent report by Government Security News reveals how DHS has issued a grant to Accenture Federal Services to the sum of $71 million for the duration of 13 months. The official purpose of the contract is to “further enhance the capabilities of its immigration and border management functions.” Yet the truth is that the money, which actually comes from the taxpayer, goes toward the development and maintenance of biometric identification systems in relation to border security and border control.
Specifically, the contract awarded to Accenture is directly related to the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program. US-VISIT is both a biographic and biometric recognition system used by Federal, State, and Local governments to determine whether or not an individual can enter into the United States.
Although the US-VISIT program currently uses fingerprints and photography, the contract awarded to Accenture is designed to develop the system so that it is able to use iris identification, enrollment, and matching in addition to its current capacities.

The new technological capabilities will be implemented at first through a pilot program that will be, as of now, voluntary. However, both experience and history have shown that anytime a government agency claims a program will be voluntary, compulsion is soon to follow.
Regardless, the Accenture contract is also geared toward upgrading the US-VISIT program’s information sharing capabilities to include real-time biometric sharing with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Defense. This should be easily accomplished since the program already shares information with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Coast Guard, and the infamous Transportation Security Administration.
There is little doubt that Accenture will be able to upgrade and improve the US-VISIT program better than any other company in the market. After all, Accenture has been working on this program since as far back as 2004, when it oversaw operational responsibility for the program known as Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).
As Government Security News notes, “Since then, IDENT has become the largest biometric identity solution in the world, processing more than 300,000 encounters a day against a database of more than 130 million stored encounters. The average response time for users is under 10 seconds.”
However, what should be noted is that the IDENT program mentioned above not only processes encounters, but stores them as well. Indeed, the US-VISIT program itself is a process of comparing the information it collects with “a watch list of known or suspected terrorists, criminals, and wanted felons, and for possible violation of immigration laws.”
This should be alarming in its own right considering the fact that what constitutes a “known or suspected terrorist” has become so broad as to include fairly common religious beliefs and even such innocuous acts as paying in cash.
Nevertheless, with a response time that is averaged in time denominations like 10 seconds, information sharing in real-time will not likely be a difficult task for Accenture to complete. Indeed, the company has been quite successful in most of its other business deals with clients such as Aerospace and Defense agencies (i.e. NASA and the U.S. Air Force), international banks, Chemical companies (i.e. DOW Chemicals), the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Military, Spanish Ministry of Defense, Australian Military, U.S. Center for Naval Intelligence, international Finance Companies, international Utilities operations, International Governments (i.e. revenue generation and processing, etc.), police agencies the world over, and even national pension programs.
But what is so disturbing about Accenture, besides their international reach, is the fact that the Corporation has been instrumental in the development and implementation of Smart Grid Technology. The term Smart Grid, of course, is merely a politically digestible name for the technological control grid.
Accenture is by no means a small or insignificant company as the list of its clients clearly shows. The ability of the company to design, develop, and implement various sinister forms of technology at the behest of governments, militaries, and other major corporations is very real.
Regardless, the US-VISIT and the IDENT programs are only a piece of the puzzle.
For instance, the Secure Communities program (S-Comm), a biometrics identification system used by ICE, was once a program that was limited to immigrants (legal and illegal) who were booked for crimes by police.
Although S-Comm is a Federal program, it was announced by ICE in February 2011 that the S-Comm program would be integrated with 58 counties in California as part of what has been deemed an “information sharing nexus.”
Of course, California is not the only state where S-Comm is operational. Texas, Arizona, and Florida also have fully implemented the program, as well as 1,067 communities in 39 other states. By 2013, ICE expects to be able to respond “nationwide to all fingerprint matches generated through IDENT/IAFIS interoperability.”
But while many opponents of illegal immigration might first cheer the new Big Brother technology because of its potential for efficiency, we should all be careful against knee-jerk reactions. After all, none of these programs actually do anything to stop border crossing. Not only that, but it is inevitable that any law or technology used against illegals will also be used against American citizens.
S-Comm is case in point.
Recent documents obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests filed by a variety of organizations including the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, reveal that the S-Comm program will not be restrained only to criminal aliens, but that it will also be applied toward law-abiding American citizens. Indeed, the documents revealed that there had been extensive coordination on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security to do just that.
As Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic states,
These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI’s role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.
In reading Kessler’s statement, one comes across yet another program of similar scope and interest – the NGI or Next Generation Identification program. The NGI program,
. . . will be used to enhance the current database of fingerprints (IAFIS). Added to fingerprints will be full biometrics including palm scans, voice imprints, iris scans, facial recognition, and other body signatures that form a full identity dossier of every individual that can ultimately be analyzed and communicated in real time between local law enforcement agencies. This collated information essentially becomes the property of law enforcement agencies if your biometrics (and DNA) are picked up as latent imprints at a crime scene. This makes everyday movements part of a tracking grid that can be cross-referenced beyond the court of law, leading to false suspicions, interrogations, and arrests. (Source)
The contract doled out by the FBI for the development and maintenance of this program was awarded to none other than Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions. This is not surprising considering the fact that Lockheed Martin has been involved in developing the tools of the global high-tech security state for years, as well as being intricately involved in the weapons trade, war profiteering, and the military industrial complex.
Like most police state surveillance technology, the NGI program will be eased in slowly and incrementally. Indeed, the FBI states exactly that on its own website when it says,
This program will further advance the FBI’s biometric identification services, providing an incremental replacement of current IAFIS technical capabilities, while introducing new functionality. NGI improvements and new capabilities will be introduced across a multi-year timeframe within a phased approach.
As a result of the roll-out of both S-Comm and NGI, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a four-page fact sheet, part of which focuses on the potential for hacking and theft outside of the basic potential for abuse by law enforcement itself. The fact sheet reads:
The accumulation of information in such large databases creates targets for hackers, disgruntled insiders, and national enemies. Information collection projects like NGI greatly endanger national security and leave us vulnerable to identity theft. Using biometric link identifiers introduces the risk that information gathered for one purpose will be used for completely unrelated purposes, without our knowledge or consent, and in blatant violation of our privacy rights.
Yet the potential for abuse by the government and law enforcement itself should be much more frightening than the risk posed by your average run-of-the-mill hacker or identity thief. The fact sheet continues:
The government’s past unsuccessful plan to issue national IDs was met with forceful opposition. NGI is the FBI’s back-door attempt to advance its agenda to increase surveillance. With NGI, the FBI is extorting existing laws and systems to intrude into the lives of every-day people and offend the ideals of freedom, privacy and democracy that we think we can take for granted.
NGI, through S-Comm and its other components, turns local police into federal officers, potentially exposing us all to intrusive surveillance and tracking, to be targeted by government programs that we may not even know about.
Jessica Karp of National Day Laborer Organizing Network echoes this sentiment in her own statement. She says:
NGI is the next generation Big Brother. It’s a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but in the body itself. The FBI’s biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever.
In addition to all of this information, the deceit practiced by the Federal Government in regard to the introduction and implementation of such technologies is well-known.
History and experience both have shown that government cannot be trusted to tell the truth regarding potentially dangerous technologies and surveillance policies – much less be trusted to operate these programs with responsibility.

As we enter a time of reduced civil liberties and Constitutional rights, the potential abuse of these technologies by government and their corporate connections has increased at the same rapid pace as the technologies themselves.

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