Wednesday, November 25, 2009

U.S.-Canada to share refugees' biometric info

c/o CanWest News Washington

WASHINGTON — Seeking to enhance its efforts to crack down on fraudulent refugee claims, the Harper government on Tuesday announced it has struck a deal to share fingerprint information on asylum seekers with the United States.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan made the announcement following a bilateral summit here with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Under the protocol, the U.S. will join a biometric data-sharing initiative Canada had already launched last summer with the United Kingdom and Australia.

"Biometrics continue to be a powerful tool to prevent terrorists and criminals from crossing our shared border and preventing identity theft and asylum fraud," Napolitano said at a news conference with Van Loan.

Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, had expressed a series of concerns about the biometric data sharing when the plan was first announced in August. Stoddart's office questioned Ottawa about the need to collect fingerprints and sought assurances the personal information gathered would not be used for secondary purposes.

"While we are still reviewing their response, on the surface of it, it appears they have addressed most of our concerns," said Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokesperson for the privacy commissioner.

"They have advised us that under the protocol, biometric information will only be used for immigration and nationality issues. They have also told us that biometric matching information will only be one of many elements considered when assessing a file."

The privacy commissioner's office is still awaiting a response, however, on how Citizenship and Immigration Canada "plans to address our concerns about how refugees, a very vulnerable population, will be notified about the collection and use of their biometric information," Hayden said.

Napolitano said the U.S. will dispatch its chief privacy officer to Ottawa in early December for discussions with Canadian officials. "As we share information, we are committed to protecting privacy and civil rights," she said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has argued biometric data sharing on refugee claimants dramatically increases the government's ability to identify foreign nationals who try to hide their past when seeking to enter Canada.

His office says the agreement allows countries to check each other's fingerprint databases but doesn't give them unfettered access to the information.

"Previous trials show that biometric information sharing works," Kenney said in a statement Tuesday. "The data sharing helps uncover details about refugee claimants such as identity, nationality, criminality, travel and immigration history, all of which can prove relevant to the claim."

When Canada, the U.K. and Australia initially signed the agreement last summer, they sought to allay privacy concerns by agreeing no central database of fingerprints would be created.

The information-sharing pact is part of a broader government initiative to introduce biometrics into Canada's immigration and refugee screening system — a plan that continues to raise red flags for privacy advocates.

"We have made them aware of our concerns with respect to what seems to be a general trend toward an increased collection of biometric information," Hayden said.

New legislation seeks to restore computer privacy

Keeping Personal Data Private

c/o Wall Street Journal

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, is sponsoring a bill, the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2009, that would beef up cybersecurity and make people’s personal information safer. It would require entities that keep personal data to establish effective programs for ensuring that that data is kept confidential. That could include encryption of data, although the law does not specify any security method. When there is a breach, it would require that notice be given to individuals whose personal information is exposed.

The Leahy bill applies both to the private companies and to government, which is important, since both the private and public sectors have been responsible for major data breaches in the past few years. It would require data brokers — companies that collect personal data and sell it to third parties — to inform consumers about the data they have on them and allow people to correct erroneous information. The bill also makes it a crime to intentionally conceal a security breach that exposes personal data, and it increases criminal penalties for identity theft by use of electronic personal data.

One potentially troubling aspect of the bill is that it would pre-empt, or nullify, state laws in this area. That is not a problem if the bill remains in its current form. But it should not be allowed to get weaker during the legislative process. A weak federal law that pre-empts state protections would be worse than no federal law at all.

Mr. Leahy’s bill was sent to the full Senate by the Judiciary Committee this month along with another worthy, but more limited, bill introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat of California. ::: MORE HERE:::

France's national identity ennui

A senior Socialist deputy said the circumstances in which the debate was launched "shows that France is sick."
"National identity is not up to us to establish as a norm for us to conform to. National identity just happens. In a big sense, it is outside our control. It's not for any government to decide." - Emmanuelle Saada, a sociologist and historian at Columbia University and France's Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

"France does not have an identity problem," said Youth & Solidarity Minister Martin Hirsch, calling it a "100-percent political debate."

BTC - "Meh... Such is life." Did you expect anything different?

c/o CNS News
Paris (AP) - The Great Debate gets under way Wednesday, led off with a grand question: "For you, what does it mean to be French?"

This is neither a pompous academic exercise in France's elite schools nor a TV game show. It is the French government's effort to clarify -- with citizen participation -- the nation's values, increasingly fraught with tensions as customs brought in by immigrants, for instance, rub up against traditional French values.

France's immigration minister, Eric Besson, launched the national soul-searching, dubbed the Great Debate, earlier this month with a Web site where citizens can write about what they think it means to be French. Up to 32,000 contributions were posted in the first two weeks, according to the ministry.

On Wednesday, the first of hundreds of local debates that are planned over the next two months will take place, this one among officials of Montargis, south of Paris, and business leaders, members of associations as well as teachers and parents of students. Exceptionally, it is being held at the Immigration Ministry.

Talking points for the debates include French history, culture, religion or language. Ultimately, they are meant to address a handful of proposals such as the meaning of national symbols like the flag or whether youths should be obliged to sing the national anthem at least once a year -- and how to share values with immigrant citizens.

"France is a nation of tolerance and respect, but it also asks to be respected," President Nicolas Sarkozy told farmers in southeastern France earlier this month. One cannot reap the advantages of living in France "without respecting any of its laws, any of its values, any of its principles."

France is a nation of immigrants but, until recently, most newcomers hailed from other European countries. Now immigrants from elsewhere, notably Muslims from former French colonies, are part of the mix. With 5 million Muslims, France has western Europe's largest Muslim population.

The initiative is contentious. Rival Socialists equate the national identity debate with a political stunt meant in part to garner votes of the anti-immigration far-right National Front ahead of March regional elections. Intellectuals and philosophers are divided, as are many citizens, contending it will fan xenophobia and stigmatize nonwhite French.

Comments on the ministry's site reflect the diversity in viewpoints.

"When you see the number of racist ideas, full of resentment ... one has the right to question the pertinence of this debate which pits one French against the other," wrote someone identified as Hasard in a message posted Tuesday. "This debate is a formidable trigger for hate, jealousy, pretense."

Francois, born in the Paris region of Seine-Saint-Denis, with a large population with origins in sub-Saharan and Muslim North Africa, fears that "we will end up like the American Indians, a minority in our own country."

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, appears to have a clear vision of France's national identity -- or what it is not. In his recent speech, he took new aim at the face-covering, all-enveloping Islamic robe worn by a very small minority of Muslim women, saying there is "no place for the subservience of women" in France.

Debating the national identity "is not dangerous. It's necessary," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy had vowed to bolster France's sense of national identity while campaigning for the presidency in 2007. He quickly created the Ministry of Immigration Ministry, Integration, National Identity and Co-Solidarity.

Some see the debate initiative as a reaction to a France whose citizens, and non-citizens, of immigrant origin are growing increasingly vocal, just as the singular French model of integration by which foreigners are expected to fully assimilate is weakening.

"I'm amazed at this debate. It's a political event (and) doesn't represent any deep need in society," said Emmanuelle Saada, a sociologist and historian at Columbia University and France's Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

"National identity is not up to us to establish as a norm for us to conform to," she said in a telephone interview. "National identity just happens. ... In a big sense, it is outside our control." And, she adds, "It's not for any government to decide."

The question, she said, is why the issue resonates with the public.

Hicham Kochman, a rapper known as Axiom, says the national identity debate is a diversion.

Axiom made his mark with a song 2006 song, "Ma Lettre au President," written to the tune of the Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

"I think this debate hijacks the real problems," like unemployment and buying power, he said.

"The only values in France are liberty, equality, fraternity. ... Each time injustice gains ground, the values are weakened. For me, France isn't a country. It's an idea."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

States Say REAL ID Heading for Real Problems

Most states unprepared and unwilling to enact draconian ID rules

c/o Air America Blog

If you plan on traveling home for the holidays, there might be more than long lines holding you up. A looming deadline for states to implement draconian ID rules may leave you grounded.

The National Governor's Association issued a letter on Wednesday to Senate and House leaders asking Congress to revise the timetable for putting the REAL ID Act into effect. Some 36 states are reportedly set to miss the December 31 deadline, which could mean that by year's end, the noncomplying states will leave countless people unable to use their licenses to board a flight.

REAL ID, passed in the midst of the post-9/11 national security hysteria, attempts to address identification fraud (since terrorists are so great at faking IDs) by imposing tighter federal standards for driver's licenses. Civil libertarians and immigrant advocates see it as a stealth assault on civil rights. In a 2008 analysis of the law, the Electronic Privacy Information Center warned that it would allow "tracking, surveillance, and profiling of the American public." Like other domestic policies enacted under the rubric of counterterrorism, REAL ID, EPIC says, could be a stepping stone toward a discriminatory national identification system, an Orwellian surveillance state, or at least a goldmine for identity thieves.

State lawmakers have argued that the regulations impose enormous costs without real safety benefits In fact, the NGA notes, many states have passed legislation that emphatically rejects REAL ID, turning an effort to harmonize state policies into an even more fractious regulatory patchwork:

Since REAL ID was enacted, states have maintained that its timelines and requirements are unrealistic and constitute a huge unfunded mandate with costs far outpacing federal funding. For these reasons, and as a result of privacy concerns, 13 states have enacted legislation prohibiting full compliance with the requirements of REAL ID, and several others have passed anti-REAL ID resolutions or have similar legislation pending. Without state participation, REAL ID falls far short of its promises, and the uncertainty of its future leaves us less secure.

With Congress and the Obama administration poised to revisit the law, the NGA is pushing for a lighter version of REAL ID known as PASS ID, which gives states more flexibility and funding to revamp their license systems.

But EPIC doesn't think those tweaks address the core civil liberties threats. For example, the group says that following a six-year timetable for implementation, PASS ID would still threaten privacy by:

...prohibiting all federal agencies from accepting any non-compliant drivers license or state identification card for any official purpose (e.g. boarding an airplane, applying for Social Security benefits, student loans, opening a post office box, entering a federal building, etc). This raises questions regarding the rights of the physically challenged, children, poor, and the elderly who receive benefits or services from federal government agencies. There are reasons why each may not hold a federally sanctioned, state-issued identification document. The PASS ID Act does not specify limits on the requirement of an approved identification document to access federal government services, benefits, or meet with federal employees in official settings. In effect, individuals will lose some level of citizenship and rights should they not hold a PASS ID. :::MORE HERE:::

Real ID Act & religious persecution

c/o National Examiner

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has refused to review a decision in which the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied an Ismaili Muslim’s petition for withholding of removal on the grounds of religious persecution. The case (Fifth Circuit docket number 09-60237) involves the REAL ID Act of 2005 and two federal statutes, 8 U.S.C. § 1231 and 8 U.S.C. § 1158.

The panel’s written opinion, which was filed on November 19, 2009, reveals that Abbas Shaikh is a citizen of India and an Ismaili Muslim. The opinion goes on to state that Mr. Shaikh entered the United States in November 2000 and overstayed his non-immigrant visitor authorization. In order to avoid removal from the U.S. back to India, Mr. Shaikh claimed that he feared persecution from Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist organization, based on his status as an Ismaili Muslim. ::: MORE HERE:::


AUSTRALIA - Greg Nikkolettos is an investigative journalist & producer for We The People Will Not Be Chipped. Most recently he has become an anti-Transhumanism advocate. In his film, ONE MAINFRAME TO RULE THEM ALL he exposes the powers and dark history behind Verichip Corp., the first company to move forward with an internal RFID capable system. The film is based on exposing IBM's role as the key fiscal sustainer for Verichip Corp.

Animal ID opponents still seek end to program

c/o North Platte Bulletin

LINCOLN, NH - A 100-group coalition -- in letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and to Congress -- urges that the National Animal Identification System be dissolved completely and that all 100 organizations look forward to working with USDA to enhance our nation's animal disease preparedness in a manner that builds upon our past successes and respects the interests of U.S. livestock producers and consumers.

In the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Congress reduced NAIS funding to $5.3 million, but did not specify how those funds were to be allocated.

The letter to Congress, sent Nov. 18, asks to support the limited use of NAIS funding to shut down the program, and to refocus the agency on measures that truly improve animal health.

The 100 groups recommend that USDA:

-- Formally withdraw all pending rulemaking initiated by the agency to advance NAIS and pay the associated costs;

-- Pay all existing contractual obligations and NAIS-related costs that USDA incurred prior to Sept. 30, 2009;

-- Pay all costs associated with transferring the computer hardware acquired by USDA as part of NAIS to state animal health agencies, to enable state agencies to improve their ability to communicate among agencies in the event of a disease outbreak; and,

-- Pay all costs associated with providing the people of the United States and Congress with an official, comprehensive report on all of the testimony USDA received at each of the NAIS listening sessions held throughout the country in 2009. ::: MORE HERE::

Debate on Civil Liberties and Police Cameras

TIBURON, Calif. (KCBS) -- The town council unanimously approved a police program that will photograph the license plate of every vehicle entering and leaving town.

Police Chief Michael Cronin proposed what he called “the most inexpensive, cost efficient method” of tackling crime even before the slaying of Joan Rosenthal, the town’s first murder in four decades.

“We have an obligation to spend as few tax dollars as we can,” he said.

Listen KCBS' Margie Shafer reports

The council vote on Wednesday came after a debate about the balance between privacy and public safety that stayed cordial despite the strong feelings of some residents.

“I am disgusted by this plan,” said Terry Graham. She and other residents who spoke at the meeting said the cameras would change the ambience of the tony town.

Cameras on Tiburon Boulevard and Paradise Drive—the only roads in and out of town—will be positioned to capture only an image of the rear license plate. Cronin said records would be purged after 30 days.

“The safe guards are far stronger in smaller communities than they are in much larger ones or in entities like the state or federal government. If you have a problem with a Tiburon police officer and you call a council member, I’m going to have to provide an explanation within an hour,” he said.

The camera idea is not entirely new. Former Mayor Andrew Thompson proposed the cameras in the mid-90s.

Cronin expects to see the cameras installed within four to six months. The total cost could run as high as $197,000.

Fusion center data consolidation effort failing, Texas seeks public input


Since the passage of the PATRIOT Act, pervasive citizen surveillance and data collection have been combined as part of an ambitious effort to coordinate national security efforts. Many state governments are in the process of developing warehouses for private and public information in centralized digital hubs called fusion centers, over 70 of which have already been established around the country.

One fusion center of considerable size and concern is the North Central Texas Fusion Center (NCTFS). According the NCTFS, their fusion system user base has expanded to 125 North Central Texas agencies and a centralized hub located in Austin with access to 90 million database records, including open source data. The fusion center intends to allow national security employees to access their user base from remote locations.

According to an ACLU report:

The types of information they seek for analysis has also broadened over time to include not just criminal intelligence, but public and private sector data, and participation in these centers has grown to include not just law enforcement, but other government entities, the military and even select members of the private sector.

Moreover, there are serious questions about whether data fusion is an effective means of preventing terrorism in the first place, and whether funding the development of these centers is a wise investment of finite public safety resources. Yet federal, state and local governments are increasing their investment in fusion centers without properly assessing whether they serve a necessary purpose.

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) is one agency currently responsible for consolidating data from all Texas State agencies into one digital location. The DIR’s consultants, EquaTerra, recently found major defects with IBM’s performance towards the consolidation. One original intention was to save the state money by simply streamlining the data into one location, but it seems IBM has proven unable to fulfill the terms of its contract.

While it is not clear how the information will continue to be used, stored, managed, or disseminated, it is clear that the project is failing standards of efficiency and the flailing project is now costing taxpayers $863 million.

In an effort to solve the problem, the DIR recently decided to reach out to the public for comment. Texans are now being asked to offer input to determine whether moving forward with the data consolidation effort is in their best interests. Texans concerned with the continuance of local fusion center data aggregation should contact the following State officials to document their input:

Governor Rick Perry
Advisor to Department of Information Resources
ATTN: Ed Robertson
Phone: (512) 463-1782

DIR Public Information Office
ATTN: Thomas Johnson
P.O. Box 13564
Austin, TX 78711-3564
Fax: (800) 464-1218
Phone: (512) 936-6592

The Peoples’ Campaign for the Constitution’s legal professionals affinity group is pursuing a systematic investigation of fusion centers around the country, with the assistance of lawyers, law students, and paralegals volunteering their time to (a) submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests (a model of which has been developed by students at Yale Law School), (b) litigate potential refusals by state governments to disclose requested documents, and/or (c) review responsive documents through a decentralized online process.

If you are a lawyer, law student, or paralegal willing to volunteer time for citizen oversight of domestic spying, please sign up for our legal professionals group and we’ll be in touch.

Medical ID fraud steals from government programs

Fraud devours some $60 billion - or 13.3 percent - of Medicare’s $452 billion budget. “Rather than stealing $100,000 or $200,000,” federal prosecutor Kirk Ogrosky said last month on “60 Minutes,” criminals “can steal $100 million.”

One thief named “Tony” told CBS’ Steve Kroft that he robbed $20 million from Medicare. It was “real easy,” he said. He registered bogus medical companies, bought stolen doctor and patient ID numbers, and then billed Medicare for phantom wheelchairs, phony artificial limbs and more. Medicare soon delivered $20,000 to $40,000 electronically into his bank account - daily.

Medicare failed to investigate complaints that it reimbursed one company for injected drugs “at doses that were not medically feasible,” one letter explained. Rather than the proper $74 per dose, Medicare sent this provider $4,464.


FLOGGER: Will a False Crisis Revive REAL ID?

National ID bashing with Cato's, Jim Harper

by Jim Harper

I’ve written here before about how the National Governors Association is seeking to peddle state power over driver licensing and identification to the federal government in order to cement its role as a supplicant for states in Washington, D.C.

NGA is currently seeking to drum up a false, end-of-year driver license crisis to convince Congress to pass a new version of REAL ID called PASS ID, moving the national ID project forward.

The letter says that states must be “materially compliant” with the REAL ID Act by the end of the year or their citizens will not be able to use their driver’s licenses as identification to board commercial aircraft. This is technically true, in one sense, but it omits some important information.

The statutory deadline for REAL ID compliance was actually a year and a half ago, May of 2008. No state was in compliance then, and the Department of Homeland Security gave out deadline extensions wholesale—even to states that didn’t ask for them.

If Congress takes no action by the end of the year, the DHS will simply do this again. There is no end-of-year driver license crisis.

And it’s no harm, no foul—nobody who has studied identity-based security believes that the national ID law would cost-effectively protect the country. Ignoring or repealing REAL ID are the best paths forward.

The NGA, of course, believes that states will be better off with its preferred version of REAL ID. Some of the sharpest corners are taken off REAL ID in the new ”PASS ID“ version, but states are kidding themselves if they think PASS ID is good for their bottom lines.

As I wrote beforetwice!—PASS ID is likely to cost states as much or more than REAL ID. Its requirements are essentially the same, and its implementation deadline—one of the biggest cost drivers—is tighter in some respects than REAL ID.

Will Congress slip PASS ID into law by the end of the year the way REAL ID was slipped into law four-plus years ago? It’ll be interesting to see…

NM Constituents Pressure DHS Representatives over ID


In less than six weeks, the federal government will be treating New Mexicans as foreigners, as your state driver's license may no longer get you through airport security.

Drivers Licenses Won' Be Valid At Airports

New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Rick Homans said a federal law called "The Real ID Act" is putting your driver's license in jeopardy to be used for travel security.

"Right now it's a game of chicken, between the federal government and the state governments," Homans said.

The Bush administration passed the law, designed to stop terrorists from entering the country, after Sept. 11, 2001. All 50 states have to comply with its regulations by Jan. 1, 2010.

[BTC- Nothing will happen if States do not comply. Funding will not be cut. No large electrocution from the sky will befall States. Nothing... will happen except Washington will have to accept that these regulations are inappropriate for American life. More and more Americans are adjusting to a life of inconvenience as an alternative to a life of surveillance. 36 States have already called DHS bluff. Just repeal it. Repeal the Real ID Act.]

Sec. Rick Homans said the clock is ticking and New Mexico is nowhere near close.

"The way it is right now, come Jan. 1st, residents of New Mexico and residents of about 25 other states wouldn't be allowed to board airplanes unless they had a valid passport."

The biggest issue is that New Mexico gives driver's licenses to foreign nationals and illegal immigrants, which under the new law, would be illegal. The Obama administration has been promising to modify the law, but so far no action has been taken. Lawmakers in Washington have been so consumed with health care reform that the "Real ID" law issue has been put on the back burner.

"So I think that's the issue our delegation in Washington needs to deal with," Homans said.

Federal/local government taking newborn DNA samples

"For me and my family,” said Beleno,

“No, you can't have our DNA."


National DNA Database

In 2006 and 2007, then, Senator Obama, filed legislation that would create a national DNA database. The same bill was filed by Sen. Patrick Kennedy in 2008 . The bills required parental consent, but all three died in the Senate.

Study finds support by some parents

Not everyone is opposed to collecting, storing and using DNA from the newborn screening program for later use. A study by the University of Michigan found that when asked for consent, only 24 percent of parents objected to using their newborns blood samples for research. That number jumped to 72 percent of parents who were somewhat or very unwilling when asked if the samples could be used without permission.

Andrea Beleno said she may have consented, if asked. But after seeing how the State of Texas has handled the issue, her mind is made up.

"For me and my family,” said Beleno, “No, you can't have our DNA."

So far, more than 8,200 other families have made that same decision to opt out of allowing the state to use their child’s genetic material.

UK Police targeting people for their DNA

CLG >>UK Independent

Police forces have been arresting people simply to add them to the controversial DNA database as a result of lax rules that have developed with almost no public scrutiny, the Government's independent DNA watchdog warns today.

The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) also says there is little evidence that the national DNA database, the largest of its kind in the world, is of any use in solving crimes. In its two-year report examining the database, published today, it concludes that allowing police to add anyone arrested to the DNA database damages the assumption of innocence.

The report received testimony from one senior police source, a retired chief superintendent, who said it was "the norm" for officers to arrest someone to obtain their DNA profile.

VIDEO: DNA database crtiticised