|image source: FBI|
ICE announced in February, 2011 that it would begin using biometric identification as a key component of an information-sharing nexus with 58 California counties meant to identify aliens who are booked for crimes by local police. However, a Freedom of Information Act request by several justice organizations revealed a program involving extensive Homeland Security coordination to expand the Secure Communities biometrics program to include even law-abiding American citizens.
The progression of Secure Communities has been warp speed, as 27 states have implemented its procedures. Minnesota is the latest to add itself in full compliance with the mandatory federal biometric ID program.
However, a pattern of deception by the federal government from the onset, as well as ignoring the growing criticism, is making it clear that rather than being a specific initiative to deport known criminals, Secure Communities is looking more and more like a sweeping move toward a Big Brother total surveillance grid.
Secure Communities is part of the Next Generation Identification program that has been rolled out to supplant the current fingerprint database known as IAFIS. Full biometrics are added to fingerprint information, including: palm scans, voice imprints, iris scans, facial recognition, and other body signatures that form an identity dossier of every individual. Once established, the dossier can be analyzed and communicated in real time between local law enforcement and federal agencies to theoretically deport "illegal and dangerous immigrants."
Concerns have been raised by privacy rights advocates and Constitutionalists alike. The biometric dossier is compiled on anyone caught within its web; it then becomes the property of law enforcement agencies even 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, potentially leading to false suspicions, interrogations, and arrests.
ICE is already under investigation for misrepresenting its intentions; and the wider role of the FBI, and its push to make mandatory what could have been voluntary, only furthers the suspicion that forcing states to obey federal mandate has intentions that far surpass documenting and deporting illegal and dangerous individuals.
According to Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, one of the organizations that applied through FOIA to review documents outlining the FBI's role in the implementation of Secure Communities:
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. (Source)The Center for Constitutional Rights issued a four-page fact sheet to outline the potential abuses inherent in such a catch-all system:
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. (Source, PDF)Three states have actually attempted to opt-out of the program -- including California, which initially introduced it across 58 counties. However, now that states have been given more time to examine exactly how the system operates, as well as hear the response from immigrant communities, there is growing resistance.
According to an editorial by the Los Angeles Times, more than half of the 148,481 immigrants removed from the program’s inception in 2008 through October 2011 had either no criminal convictions or only minor ones. Of those deported, more than 3,000 were U.S. citizens that had been mistakenly removed. (Source - Homeland Security Newswire).Naturally, the federal response completely ignores the statistics or the growing will of the people to stop this program before it advances any further:
In defense of the program, ICE officials have repeatedly stated that Secure Communities only targets violent immigrants charged with serious offenses.
'It’s the law, and we think it is very good policy, to focus our resources on people who are here unlawfully and also committing crimes,' said John Morton, the head of ICE, in an interview with the New York Times.Federal tyranny in America knows no bounds, as evidenced by the much maligned TSA, which has flagrantly ignored outrage on all levels by expanding their actions to the streets of America with their VIPR teams.
The same holds true for Secure Communities, which the Department of Homeland Security has now declared as mandatory for all states to comply with by 2013. There certainly seems to be a healthy financial interest at stake as well. The world's largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, stands to gain by selling the technology in the multi-million dollar contract (conservatively) in the same way that politically connected contractor OSI received $173 million for the Rapiscan naked body scanner contract.
How much longer will we permit the entire military-surveillance-industrial complex to grow in power and wealth, funded by our own tax dollars, as daily life in America increasingly resembles that of a Third World economy coupled with a First World technocratic police state?
Read other articles by Nicholas West here.
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