The desire to mark or identify people has been around for some time. When Social Security cards were first issued, some were concerned about being identified by a number. However, the federal government assured everyone that such numbers would never be used for identification purposes. Unfortunately, today it’s not unusual to conduct certain transactions only to be asked for part or all of that number.
Then there’s the company in Wisconsin that recently was ‘chipping’ their employees during a so-called ‘chip party’. The hand-based implant allows the employees to open doors, log on to computers or buy snacks from the break room with a simple wave of the hand.
Now another advancement has been made. There’s a plan by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to force all Americans traveling internationally to have their faces scanned for biometric data.
Joining Jim to discuss this new step in security technology was Alex Newman. Alex is an international freelance journalist, educator and consultant. His articles frequently appear in The New American. He’s the co-author of the book, ‘Crimes of the Educators’.
Alex found a document published June 12th. It’s a privacy impact assessment update for what’s called, ‘The Traveler Verification Service’. The story began 15 years ago when Congress passed a law asking that information be collected on foreigners who were leaving the U.S. While this was only meant for foreigners, Alex believes Homeland Security seems to have unilaterally decided that everyone will have to surrender their biometric data. While they admit there are privacy concerns, they’re basically saying that if you don’t want to have your face scanned, your option is to simply avoid international travel.
When did Congress give Homeland Security statutory permission to put this into law? The original bill that authorized this to some degree was passed after 9-11, however Congress never gave authority to amend this so that it pertained to all U.S. citizens. In fact, President Trump put out an executive order on this issue. Not long after, he reissued it making it clear that this was not to apply to Americans, but only to a special class of travelers. In spite of that, Homeland Security has basically ‘thrown it’s hands up in the air’ and concluded that they’re going to scan everyone and as Alex noted, ‘…if you don’t like it, you can just stay home.’
This has occurred already via pilot programs in several major U.S. airports with some ‘accomplices’ which include Delta and JetBlue Airlines. So if you’ve flown on either of those two airlines during the last year out of Chicago, Las Vegas or Los Angeles, chances are you had your face scanned. They say they’re not keeping this in their database very long but there’s no way to verify that.
What’s unusual about all of this is the double-speak that seems to come forth from Homeland Security. For example, Jim noted how they talked about the data being temporarily stored in what they call the ‘virtual private cloud’ protected by a secure, encrypted connection. Yet in the same document they say they’ll continue to retain biographic exit records for 15 years for U.S citizens and lawful permanent residents, and 75 years for non-immigrant aliens.
Will this expand from international travel to domestic travel? That question is the portal to the rest of the program, as Alex pulls back the curtain on this issue to help us see where the combination of security concerns and technology is taking us.