Dec 07 2011

Civil liberties principles for border policy

In anticipation of the announcement today of new, secretly-negotiated plans for a “North American Security Perimeter” agreement between the US and Canada, Privacy International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and a coalition of other Canadian organizations have released a joint statement of the core civil liberties and human rights principles that ought to apply to any such agreement.

We strongly endorse this statement, and commend it to the attention not just of Canadian and US politicians, activists, and public citizens but also to people in Europe and elsewhere concerned with US efforts to internationalize and globalize the Homeland Security state and “War on Terror”. (It’s clear, for example, that the proposed European Union-US agreement on DHS access to PNR data, and current procedures for “no-fly” decisions related to flights to and from the EU, would not meet these criteria.)

In contrast to previous commentary on the surveillance and control of cross-border travel as solely a “privacy” issue, the core legal principles in the PI/ACLU/CCLA statement include both the substantive right to freedom of movement as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, Article 12) and the U.S. Constitution, and the procedural right to due process not just in how travel data is handled (“data protection”) but with respect to any decision impinging on the right to travel or imposing other ill effects.

Those interested in civil liberties and privacy protection in the particular context of USA-Canada cross-border travel should also see the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s audit report on Privacy and Aviation Security: An Examination of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (November 7, 2011) and statement regarding Fundamental Privacy Rights within a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness (July 7, 2011).