In December 2018, the White House announced that President Trump had sent Congress a classified “National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel”.
Two months later, in February 2019, the White House released both this “National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel” (supposedly as signed in December 2018, and with no indication that it had ever been classified) and a companion “National Strategy for Aviation Security” (also unclassified and dated December 2018).
Together, these two documents give an overview of both the extent and the manner in which the US government intends — and believes that it has the authority — to surveil all travelers, monitor and log all movement of persons in the US and worldwide, and exercise administrative prior restraint over all such travel based on extrajudicial “pre-crime” predictions.
Nowhere in either of these vision statements is there any mention of the First Amendment, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, the right to travel, or international human rights treaties.
Nor is there any mention of existing legal means for restricting movement through court orders (injunctions or restraining orders), of judicial review of administrative controls, or indeed of any role at all for the courts.
While these documents were signed by President Trump, they express goals that have been pursued by both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Here are some of the main themes in these road maps for government action:
- Prohibition of anonymous travel and identification of all travelers: “GOAL 1: IDENTIFY … TERRORISTS BEFORE THEY TRAVEL… Develop and maintain the equipment and technology necessary to validate passenger identities.” Note that this goal extends to domestic travel, and is not limited to cross-border travel.
- Dragnet (pervasive and suspicionless) surveillance of all movement of persons. Collect and retain as much information as possible, especially biometric, biographic, and “derogatory” (but not exculpatory) information: “Improve and expand the collection of suspicious travel indicators and travel patterns; Improve functionality of identity-management systems and expand the collection and use of biometric, biographic, and derogatory data for vetting and screening.” “Domain awareness is heavily dependent on advanced information collection.”
- Predictive “pre-crime” prior restraint and real-time control of travel: “Enhance and further automate recurrent traveler … vetting processes and capabilities … to accurately detect terrorists’ movements throughout their travel … lifecycle.” (“Vetting” is a euphemism for “fly/no-fly decision-making”.)
- Seamless integration of government surveillance and control of travel with commercial transportation infrastructure. Sharing and common use of identification, biographic, and biometric data for government and commercial purposes. “[P]ublic and private sector entities must act in concert… [t]ogether, as one integrated system…. Domain awareness requires unprecedented cooperation and action among the public and private sectors.” The strategy documents say that the government should “reduce burdens on the private sector,” but there’s no mention of reducing burdens on individuals.
- Unlimited extraterritorial jurisdiction over travel and travelers: “Guiding Principles: Identify and interdict terrorists as early as possible in the travel process to extend security efforts beyond the United States border.”
- Globalization of US travel surveillance and control models: “Encourage and support efforts by foreign partners to bolster traveler screening, data collection, data analysis, and data sharing, including biometric and other traveler data, to improve capabilities to identify or detect terrorists.”
- Policy laundering through international organizations: “The United States will cooperate with foreign partners to enhance international standards and best practices…. This will include initiatives pursued through international organizations that include private sector participation…. The United States Government will also promote implementation of systems for the use of advance passenger information, passenger name records, and biometrics.” “Watchlisting” in this context is, as usual, a euphemism for blacklisting.