Every time you fly into or out of the United States it's duly noted in your Homeland Security file. You knew that, didn't you?
They couldn't keep up with the number of people crossing by land. Until now, that is.
According to the Washington Post "In January, border agents began manually entering into the database the personal information of (all) travelers who did not have such (machine readable) documents." There's a disconnect here, because comments are being taken until Monday when the "new system of records will be effective." That's one for the Urban Dictionary; evidently "effective" now means "when we get around to telling you about it."
Don't worry, they'll only keep the information for 15 years. (It's 75 years for non-citizens, which doesn't bother me a bit.)
I'm okay, and you are too, of course. What have we got to hide?
But all those other guys might be worried that it links to the Non-Federal Entity Data System. Never heard of that one? That's a database they're building of State Driver's Licenses and Identification Cards-- a result of the Real ID Act of 2005. We won't call them national identification cards, because that's specifically prohibited by law.
"By June, all travelers crossing land borders will need to present a machine-readable document, such as a passport or a driver's license with a radio frequency identification chip," says the Post. RFID? WTF?
Everyone knows, but me
Oh, and "The notice states that the government may share border records with federal, state, local, tribal or foreign government agencies in cases where customs believes the information would assist enforcement of civil or criminal laws or regulations, or if the information is relevant to a hiring decision."
More? "They may be shared with a court or attorney in civil litigation, which could include divorce cases; with federal contractors or consultants "to accomplish an agency function related to this system of records"; with federal and foreign intelligence or counterterrorism agencies if there is a threat to national or international security or to assist in anti-terrorism efforts; or with the news media and the public "when there exists a legitimate public interest in the disclosure of the information.""
Is there anyone they missed? You guessed it, I'll bet:
"Homeland Security is proposing to exempt the database from some provisions of the 1974 Privacy Act, including the right of a citizen to know whether a law enforcement or intelligence agency has requested his or her records and the right to sue for access and correction in those disclosures."
No state is in compliance, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in fact 19 states have passed laws or resolutions opposing Real ID. That's because Homeland Security grossly underestimated the cost (what a surprise) and because of privacy concerns.
Just as an aside, I'm curious about the CNMI's reaction. Federalization, you know, an unfunded mandate and invasion of privacy too.
Opposition comes from "liberal", "conservative" and "libertarian" groups, it doesn't seem to be a partisan issue. With so many foes, who's for it?
Well, Sen. John McCain was absent when Real ID flew through without much debate and no public hearings. But I tracked down a specific question on the issue and his answer: "The 9/11 Commission recommended that the federal government set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver's licenses. Consistent with these recommendations, the Real ID act established federal guidelines to prevent fraud in the issuance and acquisition of identity documents. I support full implementation of Real ID but understand that states need to be given enough time and funding to implement the requirements."
Barack Obama didn't vote either. To be fair I tracked down his answer to the same questionaire: "I do not support the Real ID program because it is an unfunded mandate, and not enough work has been done with the states to help them implement the program."
Not surprising: given their positions on privacy and wiretapping. McCain is more interested in talking about Georgia's democracy than ours. Obama flipped like a pancake on this one.
It seems the State Department and Homeland Security are trying another tack in their search for a National ID card: the (RFID) Passport Card. Then again, this guy's pushing offshore banking and investment. Maybe we should be looking him up on the database.