Feb 06 2018

New “National Vetting Center” will target travelers

The White House today announced the creation by executive order of a new “National Vetting Center”, led by the DHS, to coordinate efforts to surveill, profile, and control movement by U.S. citizens, residents, immigrants, and visitors.

The “National Security Presidential Memorandum” was not made public, and the  press release announcing it gives few details. So far as we can tell, it appears that the intent  is to integrate the pre-crime functions of the DHS, particularly those of the National Targeting Center that currently issues extrajudicial yes-fly and no-fly orders or “recommendations” to airlines, with the travel and immigrant surveillance components of other departments, and to extend it from border crossings to continuous surveillance and control.

Since “pre-cogs” capable of making pre-crime predictions are a Hollywood sci-fi fantasy, not a reality, what would be the criteria for this “Extreme Vetting”?

A report commissioned last month by the head of US Customs and Border Protection and  made public by Foreign Policy gives an indication of the likely “vetting” criteria for action against individuals by the new National Vetting Center.

CBP’s “Office of Intelligence” [sic] explicitly recommends targeting (otherwise known as “discrimination”) based on Constitutionally protected attributes including  gender, national origin, and religion.

In addition, the CBP report defines “international travel” as per se suspicious, ignoring its status as the exercise of rights protected by the First Amendment (the right to assemble) and international human rights treaty (the right to freedom of movement):

Nine of the perpetrators traveled outside of the United States, within one to two years of the incident, to countries in the Middle East, South Asia or Europe, suggesting the travel may have played a role in their path to radicalization. Four individuals traveled to the Middle East or South Asia within three to four years of their attacks. Five out of the 14 U.S.-born perpetrators traveled to the Middle East or South Asia within 4 years or less of the incidents.
There’s no comparative analysis of how many people not suspected of terrorism traveled to these countries and regions — not that it should matter to our rights.

The CBP report explicitly recommends continuous long-term surveillance based solely on pre-crime predictions derived from these protected “demographic” attributes:

The common demographics among those in this study provides a baseline to identify at-risk persons. While initial screenings at ports of entry that CBP performs remains crucial, this assessment suggests great value for the United States Government in dedicating resources to continuously evaluate persons of interest. The lengthy period of time most of the foreign-born perpetrators spent in the United States suggests substantial benefits from United States efforts that scrutinize transactional immigration events, including visa renewals, immigrant benefit applications, travel plans, and other instances to re-evaluate on a long-term basis, individuals who might be vulnerable to terrorist narratives.
Law-enforcement agencies should confine their concerns to illegal actions. Only in a police state do the thought police concern themselves with control of “narratives”.