Monday, May 23, 2005

Absolutely Chilling

On May 19, 2005, Michael Chertoff, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, spoke to the Center for Strategic and International Studies about what he envisioned his task was. The full text of his speech is here, and I urge you to read the entire speech and the Q&A which followed.

In the meantime, I am going to highlight some of the sections which most concerned me because it seems to me that, his protests notwithstanding, we can expect further erosion of our rights to privacy and the unilateral imposition of American regulations on every other nation in the world.

In my own prior job as head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, we put people overseas to work with prosecutors and investigators in Europe precisely because we needed to build up a network of law enforcement that would parallel the network of terror. So this is not new, but as we are poised here two years after the Department was formed, it's a good time to start to think about how do we take this to the next level; how do we move beyond simply partnering on an individual episodic basis to building a true partnership that will operate in a mission-oriented focus, where we will work together with our allies overseas to accomplish a mission that will secure the entire world.

And let me tell you where I would like to see us go with this at the end of this next stage of development. We need to have a world that is banded with security envelopes, meaning secure environments through which people and cargo can move rapidly, efficiently, and safely without sacrificing security. And in that kind of a world, it would be possible with the proper security vetting, with the proper technology, with the proper travel documents, with the proper tracking of cargo to move relatively freely from point to point all across the globe with the understanding that those within the security envelope we have a high confidence and trust about so that they don't have to be stopped at every point mechanically and re-vetted and rechecked. And those outside the envelope would be those on which we could focus our resources in terms the kind of in-depth analysis and the kind of in-depth vetting that is necessary to make sure bad people can't come in to do bad things.

In other words: "Our way. Period." The effect this may have on imports or tourists be damned. You get passports which contain a chip that our INS reader can scan (as well any other machine reader held by another individual), or you don't visit Disney World or attend a conference at any university.

[The]technology is obviously going to be critical. We need technology for screening cargo. We can use it for screening people, as well. We're doing a lot of work in this country. The Europeans are doing a lot of work. We ought to make sure we get on the same page with that work for two reasons. First of all, we maximize our resources if we have fully available to us all of the ingenuity and talent across the globe of people who are thinking about ways to use technology.

Secondly, we've got to be compatible. It doesn't make a lot of sense, for example, to have radio frequency chips that use different kinds of modalities in the United States and Europe and in Asia because we're simply going to make it hard for us to interconnect, so that to the extent that we can start to build common platforms and common technological approaches, again, we will move ourselves closer to this concept of a security envelope. And we will also save ourselves some money and some effort and some time.

Finally, law enforcement -- as I've indicated, intelligence sharing and law enforcement sharing has been critical to dealing with the threat of terrorism globally. We need to continue to advance on that front. We've done a lot. I know, for example, in Europe, the Europeans themselves through the EU mechanism and Europol have been working to try to have greater connectivity among their various law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies. We need to build on that. We need to encourage it, again, because that free flow of information and cooperation gives us an ability to network in a way that lets us match the network of the enemy.

Mr. Chertoff has already told us that he worked hard to insert American police investigators in other countries. Now, he expects the payoff. I don't have a problem with co-ordinated efforts to short circuit terrorists who would do our country or any other nation harm. I do have a problem with insisting that all nations submit to our various 'enforcement agencies' determining what we expect by way of cooperation from other nations. Like most Americans, I respect our sovereignty. I also respect that of other nations. We have become bullies under this current administration, and I think much of our daily problems are due to that.

There are number of ways in which the private sector can really add value and play a major role in this process. One is, of course, technological -- to the extent we have tools that are more efficient in screening, that's often an area where the private sector contributes.

Second, where we do -- and I want to be very careful about how I say this -- where we do screening, and we do need a certain amount of limited information for screening, some of that's available in the private sector. Now, it may be that it should remain in the private sector, that we don't want the government to accumulate a lot of data, but that we want to figure out a way to deal with the private sector so that we can get a signal or a flag that there is, for example, with respect to a traveler a reason to be concerned without actually having to dive into the underlying data and get access to things that I think people might be reluctant to have their government see. So I actually think the private sector can help us construct an architecture that will be privacy -- pro-privacy and privacy protective, while giving us the ability to see results that will be important in terms of deciding who we have to focus on.

Finally, the private sector can deal with it this way -- you've got a lot of people traveling almost always for private business, as we talk about trusted traveler programs getting more of the kind of information that allows us, for example, to let people move freely through airports, as we talk about biometric types of identification which maybe become available on a voluntary basis, the private sector can create a marketplace for this. If people, in fact, see value in having a biometric card and volunteering some information for it in return for getting some kind of trusted traveler status, that will create a marketplace for the technology and a marketplace for the systems that we need to drive that forward. So that's another area where we look to the private sector.
[emphasis added]

And here, of course, is the bottom line. This man and his ideas (clearly those of the current administration) are dangerous, are hazardous to our health as a democracy and as a nation of the world.

I find this chilling and unacceptable.


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