Tuesday, 17 January 2006

USA government goal: Gather and use "Travel Intelligence"

At a joint news conference today in Washington, DC, USA Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a joint vision to “Develop and use ‘Travel Intelligence’ before travelers arrive” in the USA (and after, it appears from the descriptions of the planned programs).

It’s not clear that this newly-announced “vision” is anything really new, but it is the most explicit acknowledgement yet of the USA government’s intention to create a comprehensive system of surveillance of travellers , wherever they go and by whatever means they travel.

While today’s announcement brought out the common surveillance and travel control purposes behind a wide range of initiatives by both federal government Departments (Homeland Security and State), including “An Enhanced Partnership with the Private Sector”, it failed to mention the extent to which the transportation industry is being compelled by the government to spend billions of dollars to build surveillance capabilities into its infrastructure — just as has the communications industry under laws like the Communications Assistance to law Enforcement Act (CALEA), and over similarly strong industry protests at these unfunded mandates.

(Neither the communications nor transportation industry, unfortunately, has stood up for their customers against these surveillance mandates on privacy or civil liberties grounds. Industry has objected only on the basis of their own financial interests, making it easy for government to buy their support by giving them free use for their marketing and other commercial purposes of the data coerced from their customers by government order.)

The one seeming “concession” today was the announcement that a new alternative identity credential would be made available to those wishing to cross the USA-Mexico and/or USA-Canada borders without a passport. The USA government has thus “backed down” from its previously-adopted requirment for all border crossers to have passports by 2008. The new ” biometric passport card” will supposedly be cheaper than a regular passport, but there’s no indication that it will be any easier to obtain, less susceptible to government or commercial misuse for surveillance, or in any other way less of a burden on travellers than a standard passport.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 16:01 ( 4:01 PM)
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