Proposed Law Would Turn US Borders Into Unblinking Eyes With A Thirst For Human DNA

from the all-the-bad-lawmaking-in-one-large-PDF dept

Some senators are looking to turn US borders into the equivalent of London: cameras everywhere and a host of new incursions into travelers’ and visitors’ privacy. Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica “outed” the not-yet-introduced bill — titled “Building America’s Trust Act” [wtf] — since the supporting lawmakers have yet to formally announce their plans to make the US a worse country to live in, much less visit.

The one-pager [PDF] for the bill [PDF] (which is 186 pages long) makes it clear what the objective is: more surveillance, more boots on the ground, and green lights for law enforcement agencies located anywhere within 100 miles of the nation’s borders. The bill calls for more judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and inspectors, as well as walls, levees, fences — whatever might further separate the US from its bordering neighbors (but only the southern one, apparently).

First off, there will be an increase in aerial surveillance. The bill calls for an increase in manned flight hours, as well as mandating drone flights at least 24 hours a day for five days a week. This would be in addition to increased use of surveillance equipment that can be mounted on vehicles or carried by humans. The DHS will also be allowed to draft the National Guard to perform border patrol duties and construct fences and walls and set up/monitor surveillance equipment.

The list goes on and on. (And on.) Customs and Border Patrol (and any agencies assisting it) will be exempted from 30 state and federal laws governing (among other things) use of public land should it be determined these ecology-protecting statutes “interfere” with the CBP’s border patrolling efforts. The bill would also exempt border security efforts from the normal federal bidding process, allowing agencies to use non-competitive means to hire employees and source contractors. The bill would also raise staffing levels, providing for signing bonuses of up to $10,000 per new hire and an expanded waiver of the CBP’s polygraph test requirement.

The law would allow border security agencies to obtain Defense Department surveillance gear, with an eye on round-the-clock surveillance in some form and increased gathering of biometric information. More specifically, the bill asks for this:

The Secretary shall create a system or upgrade an existing system (if a Department system already has capability and capacity for storage) to allow for storage of iris scans and voice prints of aliens that can be used by the Department, other Federal agencies, and State and local law enforcement for identification, remote authentication, and verification of aliens. The Secretary shall ensure, to the extent possible, that the system for storage of iris scans and voice prints is compatible with existing State and local law enforcement systems that are used for collection and storage of iris scans or voice prints for criminal aliens.

This will be fed by the DHS’s biometric entry-exit collection, meaning it won’t just be foreign visitors adding to the pile of biometric data. The law calls for the program to be put in place at all high traffic ports of entry (including major airports) within two years. As we’ve seen from previous pilot programs, there’s no good way to ensure US persons aren’t swept up in the biometric scanning. All we have are assurances these “inadvertent” collections will be siloed off from the DHS’s foreigner collection.

Customs authorities will also be given power to demand biometric info from visa applicants and DNA will be collected from all detained immigrants, whether or not they’re criminally charged. This information will then be shared with the State Department and the FBI.

From there, the law adds other politically-charged stipulations, like an entire subsection entitled “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act.” Also of note: the bill would allow law enforcement to seize everything from cash to bitcoins if they’re suspected to be “criminal proceeds.” It also strips away any mens rea protection from accusations of money laundering, allowing the government to seize money/charge suspects with a federal crime whether or not they knowingly engaged in criminal activity.

The whole package is basically a 186 pages of surveillance expansion and xenophobic legalese. The sole benefit of the bloated bill is it consolidates so many anti-foreigner objectives into a single PDF, saving opponents the trouble of having to track a few dozen similarly-minded bills. The limits on the collection and use of biometric data are almost nonexistent and there’s nothing in it specifically ordering agencies to keep US citizens out of the data pile. A number of law enforcement agencies have already offered their endorsement of the bill, suggesting it’s spent some time being circulated among proponents. Now, it’s in the hands of the rest of the county where it’s unlikely to see as unqualified support. It’s a Patriot Act but for the border — a hysteria-based bill that panders to the president’s desires.

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Comments on “Proposed Law Would Turn US Borders Into Unblinking Eyes With A Thirst For Human DNA”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I don’t like the partisan stupidity and I commend TD for avoiding any mention of parties in the article, specially considering there’s bullshit in all political spectrum. That said and I’m certainly not a fan of Democrats, my first thought when I first read about this abhorrent piece of crappy bill was “Republicans” and it didn’t fail on me because it was introduced by them. There are these types of groups everywhere, here we have more political parties so there are 3 or 4 that would fit in the Republican way of being worse than the others. Even though I had a special disdain reserved for Bush (the last one) because of the Patriot Act and inexistent mass destruction weapons being used to justify military intervention I personally didn’t have anything too bad against the party itself that I couldn’t find in Democrats as well. But heck this administration and R’s behavior in the legislative branch for the recent years earned them the Golden Turd of bullshit and assholeness. I can see there are good people in the party but really, they should leave and found a third party along with the good that there is in the Democrats…

As for the bill itself I think it might find resistance even among the Republicans (the good ones I mentioned) and being so broad may be it’s weak point and eventual demise. We need to stay tuned and mount resistance though. With the current administration no amount of caution and activism is enough.

discordian_eris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The only real difference is that, by and large, Democrats used to be looking to build. (Now the Dems are just shills for their patrons) Republicans are looking to tear down. (Shills for their patrons and the Dominionists) The problem is, there are few good Democrats left, and the last good Republican left the party years ago. Neo-liberalism killed the Democrats, and the Republicans lobotomized themselves.

Both parties should just be written off at this point. Unfortunately, the reality of our two party system means that their is no chance of a viable third party forming at the national or state level.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Lie detector tests can be beaten. While the USA has cracked down on those teaching how to beat a polygraph, this does not apply to anyone doing it outside the USA.

I have heard of American expatriates living in Mexico doing this, putting beyond of reach of US laws. US laws do not apply in Mexico.

After one guy was convicted in the USA, some American doing this took their operations to Mexico, putting them beyond the reach of US law enforcement.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

A “lie detector” doesn’t detect lies, it detects STRESS. The ASSUMPTION is that lying is stressful, therefore stress == lying. While that may be true sometimes, telling the truth can also be VERY stressful, especially with today’s LEO and government attitudes. If you want a conviction, simply have the operator phrase the questions in such a way as to cause stress and you’ve got yourself a conviction! That’s what polygraph operators train for the most – how to phrase question to provoke a response.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

While the USA has cracked down on those teaching how to beat a polygraph, this does not apply to anyone doing it outside the USA.

I have heard of American expatriates living in Mexico doing this, putting beyond of reach of US laws. US laws do not apply in Mexico.

Good luck with that. If the teacher of such a course ever sets foot in, or flies over, the USA, there’s a good chance they’ll be arrested. Given what happened with Kim Dotcom, it might happen even if they never go near the place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It would also depend on the laws of Mexico. If it is not an offense in Mexico, then the USA would not be able to extradite, as Mexico is a country where they do not extradite, if the offense is a not a crime in Mexico.

And then coming back to yet another secession move, even biggest than CalExit, a movement to create the Republic Of Pacificam, someone could, as long as it was not a crime in Pacifica, teach people how to beat lie detectors, and the USA would not be able to do anything about it.

Pacifica, under one proposed constitution, would also be forbidden from handing over its own citizens to any other country, for any reason.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Those weren't jokes

I may have exaggerated slightly for comedic effect on the subject in the past, but when I’ve noted that unless you absolutely must physically come to the US for some business reason don’t come at all I was being quite serious.

Spend your money elsewhere, go on vacations to locations within your own country or in other countries, but for your own safety and security do not come to the US if you can avoid it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Those weren't jokes

What exactly are the safety concerns?

Should people travel to the EU? I’m sure the “part of daily life” terrorist attacks are much safer there right? How about the Middle East? Africa? Asia? South America? Russia? India or Pakistan? Saudi Arabia?

You need to get a grip. The latest CDC stats show All homicides
•Number of deaths: 15,872
•Deaths per 100,000 population: 5.0

Stop believing that what you see on TV or read from media that have an agenda(all of them).

It’s no more dangerous here than most other nations. The EU Homicide rate is at about 3.0 per 100,000. The US is at 5.0. It’s significant, but no where near the war zone you are trying to imply. Again, get a grip.

If you wish to compare cities, I’ll give you L.A., Chicago, Baltimore and New York. I’ll take Glasgow, Marseilles, Napoli, and Istanbul.

Hell, even Canada isn’t much safer in quite a few cities.

Face it, Life is dangerous whether you like it or not. People, from every walk of life, and every country on the planet can be dangerous.
If you stay home, you might get murdered. If you go out, you might get murdered. If you travel, you might get murdered.
Get on with your life and stop buying the overblown scare tactics and fear mongering that others are selling.

ThaumaTechnician (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Those weren't jokes

MacLean’s might not be the best source for information on this.

Try this one:
You may be shocked by some of the stats; I know I was. For example, did you know that the murder rate in the USA is 33 times that of Canada.

Personally my apprehension, if I ever have to go to the USA, is based on government corruption, all the way from local corrupt police forces (think Joe Arpaio and TSA agents) up to and including your Administration.

While the two countries rank equally well right now in the 2016 Transparency and Press Freedom indices, it’ll be interesting to see where the US ranks relative to Canada, once your President/King is done rearranging the country to suit his affairs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Those weren't jokes

You think YOUR government isn’t corrupt? Seriously?

“Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” Ambrose Bierce

This country has 3 branches of government for a reason. The fact that you think Trump has some kind of power to make this his little fiefdom means that you don’t understand our government in the slightest.

63 Million people voted for that guy and I was NOT one of them, but I accept the vote because that is how our government works. 4 years does not a country make.

And if you honestly think that Clinton would have been a better choice, then you can’t be reasoned with and I am not going to bang my head against that wall.

That being said, enjoy your day and don’t work too hard on the Molson muscle, eh?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Those weren't jokes

“Stop believing that what you see on TV or read from media that have an agenda(all of them).”

Should I stop believing what I read in tech blogs also?

“My point was pretty clear. “

I do not believe you

“When do I graduate to being a racist, misogynist, war monger?”

idk, do you want to?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Those weren't jokes

And my response was something along the lines of throwing stones and glass houses. No country/region has a monopoly on hate groups, hateful speech, or government corruption. To argue over the degree of wrongness of these things is missing the point and perpetuates the problem.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Those weren't jokes

"To argue over the degree of wrongness of these things is missing the point and perpetuates the problem."

I disagree. You cannot in all seriousness say this in the same breath as "hate groups, hateful speech, or government corruption. There is a valid scale of wrongness here that needs to be aired. You’d have us equate the USA in terms of risk with, say, Switzerland. That’s a ridiculous proposition. And frankly, it’s insulting.

The USA is projecting a horrible, unwelcoming front to the world, and it’s worsening. Deal with it.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I do not think they know what trust means.

While I am sure there are a few cheering this sort of legislation, its only because they haven’t been mugged by the feds yet.

This will not make us safer.
CBP agents have been busted several times for wrongdoing, so now we are gonna remove even the laughable polygraph requirement & outsource it in no bid contracts.

Welcome to even more asset forfeiture based on the we think you’re guilty but the law takes to long so we can just rob you.

This is stupid & they should be ashamed.
Sadly they will ride a high tide of support from people still unable to understand that these new rules will be used on them too.

Traveler says:

Actually, if you’ve traveled to Asia* recently, this level of biometric collection/screening is standard. Fingerprint, facial scanning and (probably, hard to tell if it’s included in the face scanning) iris scanning is carried out upon entry and departure. Has been for years now. American customs practice, if anything, is less intrusive currently.

Just more places you folks who are afraid of America should avoid visiting I guess.

*Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan at least.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s always the weakest excuse to ignore abuses of power – “oh other countries violate privacy and other human rights, so we should just accept the US doing it as well”. You never want to rise above the level of the worst, it seems.

“Just more places you folks who are afraid of America should avoid visiting I guess.”

You do realise that a lot of the people concerned about this are Americans, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Did you see anything in the post above that ignored abuse of power? Did it state anywhere that it was ok?

I simply stated that compared to other countries, America has somewhat lax customs identification practices. It was a comparison, not an accolade.

Way to impose your agenda/biases into someone else’s post, Mr. PaulT.

The statement about being afraid of America was in direct response to those above (including Americans) who advocated not coming here because of those “risks”. I just told them other places they might want to avoid.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Did you see anything in the post above that ignored abuse of power?”

Yes, the whole post that didn’t address it at all, just engaged in a spot of whataboutism.

“The statement about being afraid of America was in direct response to those above (including Americans) who advocated not coming here because of those “risks”.”

Which does not address the things that those people are talking about at all. But, since you admit that Americans are among those warning of the risks – why should I believe you and not them?

Anonymous Coward says:

One problem is that if you are going on a long car trip to Mexico, you have to have a lot of cash for gas, as Pemex stations do not accept credit, and for toll roads, which are also cash-only.

I guess when I drive to Mexico in the future, if this bill passes, I will have to find a place to hide my cash where CBP agents will not find it, if they decide to stop me as I am departing the country.

The fact that you HAVE to have a big wad of cash for gas and for toll roads will make problems for travellers on long car trips to Mexico, unless they find a way to hide their cash where CBP will not find up, if they are selected for inspection upon leaving the United States.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only thing I DO agree with is allowing CBP to ignore enviromental laws. I am thinking it might allow them to build new ports on entry in the San Diego area, which are much needed, because of the long border wait times, but the Coastal Commission gets in the way of that.

I am thinking that if that part of the bill gets passed, CBP will be able to build the new ports of entry, as well as build facilities in some airports, which have been hampered by environmental laws.

That is one reason where there are not as many international flights, for example, from Sacramento airport. The facilities that Customs needs to handle more international flights have been held up for years by both state and federal enviromental laws. That part of the bill, the way I see it, would allow those facilities to be built, and the State of California would be unable to stop it.

Overriding California, and other states’, environmental laws, and the Coastal Commision is the ONE thing that I DO agree with here.

Anonymous Coward says:

What are they afraid of?

It can’t be terrorism they are afraid of, as they actively endorse it. They are afraid of “the people”, yes you and me. It would be funny if Hollywood were to make a horror flick where politicians were haunted by the people. It would be called “The People”. Could easily modify existing zombie clips.

Anonymous Coward says:

The DHS will also be allowed to draft the National Guard to perform border patrol duties and construct fences and walls and set up/monitor surveillance equipment.

And since the DHS can do whatever the fuck they want within 100 miles of the border, that means 2/3 of the US population will be subject to policing by US military personnel.

Linda says:

border status

So what is the point here? That the U.S. (and presumably only the U.S. among all the nations of the world) does not have the right to limit immigration? That anyone should be let in without identification?

Which other countries allow unidentified and unrestricted immigration? Which of those prohibit asking people who don’t speak the local language what is their immigration status?

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: border status

The US already limits it. At the very least, do you think this is a sensible expansion of government and spending of funds? Do you imagine it will accomplish much of anything? Even if you are a proponent of tighter border security, how do you feel about the already much expanded security apparatus since 09/11/2001, and the quality of work they have been doing?

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: border status

I think the point it that the USA is a hostile and unfriendly place to visit and it’s getting less and less attractive. Visitor numbers are down, and falling. Myself, I have not visited the country since 2002 and won’t visit again anytime soon.

Why? Pick from: DNA sampling (coming soon), taking fingerprints, forcing open and rummaging through luggage, sexually assaulting children, eye-rolling visa and customs questions, demanding electronic devices are unlocked, demanding user accounts and passwords for online services… and then there are the known abuses, which are manifold. I could go on…

Anonymous Coward says:


And I’m sure that the people manning the booths at these border crossing will:
a. not notice that their computers aren’t pulling up the license plate of the car, and
b. not do anything about it if they do notice.

That’s assuming that they even work, which, if I remember the Mythbusters episode correctly, they don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I just don’t like the idea of having my plates scanned by a reader. As long as you are not doing anything illegal, I don’t think they should be able to scan your plate as you cross the border into Mexico.

And what I am talking about is diffeernt than the sprays that Mythbusters tried. This is a plastic cover that you can by that you screw on over your license plate, that makes the number unreadable from the angles of your typical camera.

And the license plate cameras are literally right at the border itself. By the time they figured out what was going on, I would be over the border into Mexico, if I was using the San Ysidro crossing. CBP does not have jurisdiction in Mexico.

SO if you want to keep the exit cameras from being able to record your license number as you are crossing into Mexico, just put one of these on your plate and use the San Ysidro crossing where you will be over the border, before they realize they cannot get your license number.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Also, another thing that will prevent license plates from being read is one trick that more Gringos are using to prevent Mexican police from being able to remove their license plates if the park illegal, by taping up their license plates to their front and back windows, and not putting them in the license plate frame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

And what I am talking about is diffeernt than the sprays that Mythbusters tried. This is a plastic cover that you can by that you screw on over your license plate, that makes the number unreadable from the angles of your typical camera.

From MythBusters Episode 73: Speed Cameras:

A speed camera cannot see through a crystallized plate cover.


In the crystals inside the cover did not reflect enough light to fool the camera. Also, the legality of such a device was questioned.

A speed camera cannot see through a lenticular lens plate cover.


While designed to distort the plate from an angle, all or most of the letters of the plate were still identifiable in the tests. Also, the legality of such a device was questioned.

I wouldn’t know the San Ysidro crossing from a McDonald’s drive-thru, so you’d be better qualified than I to say what is involved in going through that border.

But on the northern border, I usually get checked by Canadian Customs when leaving the States, and U.S. Customs when entering. So, if I tried to dash through into Canada, the Canadian Border Services Agency would be after me (who certainly have jurisdiction in Canada), and if I tried to dash into the U.S., CBP would be on my ass.

And, again, this is for the Canadian border, but up north, the border agencies share data. So, if you pull up to Canadian Customs and tell the CBSA that you were in the U.S. for a week, they can check the CBP entry record (and plate scans) and confirm that.

So, even if you put the plate covers on, even if they work, even if you run from the Mexican border agency and get away, even if you take the covers off when coming back into the U.S….

Shouldn’t there be some red flags raised about why there was no record of you (or your car) leaving the U.S.?

Unless you don’t get stopped at all at San Ysidro on the way in, either. In which case… Wow. I think you might need to work on securing your legal border crossings before you even consider building a wall to prevent people from avoiding them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Welcome to the Dystopian USA future

How many novels have I read over the years that have as its underlying premise a dystopian future for the USA? And what do we see over the last decade or so? These old stories coming true in a place near you. The good ole’ boys are ready to serve you in the most courteous fashion because you are a citizen, yeah sure!

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