Monday, December 3, 2007

DHS is Slap Happy for Screening and Surveillance

Right in your own back yard:

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.

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.


In around-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 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.


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."

So we can't even contest it. Well try not to piss of whoever is screening you, eh? And what if you leave the country more than once in a lifetime? Do you have to reset the clock on another forty years? Who is going to manage 300 million+ people's profiles? More bureaucracy means more wasted money, more time, less liberty, and inevitably, people are going to mess this up. Seriously. How subjective is something like a number rating? And considering how militarized government agents and police are, they'd be more than happy to slap a 10 on anyone that looks at them the wrong way.

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