Senior officials of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) came to San Francisco last week to meet with representatives of the Identity Project and other civil liberties and human rights organizations regarding CBP “biometric entry/exit” schemes. These CBP programs, some of which are already in operation, involve taking digital mug shots of international travelers — including US citizens — as they enter and leave the US. The meeting in San Francisco was a follow-up to one in Washington, DC, in August 2017.
Debra Danisek, CBP Privacy Officer, and John Wagner, Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner in charge of the CBP “Office of Field Operations”, were accompanied to the meeting by CBP national, regional, and SF Bay Area local CBP policy and operations staff.
We welcomed the opportunity to point out to the CBP officials in charge of these programs that — especially as they apply to US citizens — they violate multiple Federal laws, involve unconstitutional warrantless, suspicionless dragnet surveillance of how we exercise our right to assemble as protected by the First Amendment, and should be abandoned.
It was an infuriating meeting, however. Rather than offering explanations for many of the CBP’s practices, the CBP officials across the table flatly denied much of what is happening at airports throughout the US, even in the face of first-person testimony to the contrary from many of the civil liberties advocates in attendance.
Since they wouldn’t admit that some of the most abusive CBP practices — the ones we thought the meeting had been called to discuss — are actually happening, the CBP officials wouldn’t talk about what, if any, legal basis these practices might have. Meanwhile, these unlawful practices by CBP and other DHS components continue and expand.
Here are some of the counter-factual claims made by CBP in our meeting, and some of the issues left unaddressed: Read More