Department of Homeland Security Keeps on Creepin' On...

Recently, we expressed concern about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testing iris-scanning technology on immigrants detained at the border. Since posting that entry, the Center for Media and Democracy has obtained a copy of the DHS “Privacy Impact Assessment” for the technology’s test run, and we are now even more concerned that DHS has not adequately considered this technology's serious implications for privacy and civil liberties.

The border patrol's test of this iris scanning technology caught our attention for two reasons. First, DHS has been given access to enormous funds to fulfill its politically expedient mandate to “secure the borders, ” without requiring that the agency carefully balance the funds expended against their potential effectiveness and impact on civil liberties. Second, by testing new technologies on immigrants who lack both a voice and a vote, DHS may reduce the risk of being called out for violating civil liberties, allowing elements of the surveillance state to slowly creep into America. People who have just been caught crossing the border are likely too tired, hungry, and dismayed to raise ire about civil liberties violations; and besides, they cannot vote anyway.

Both of our concerns have been borne out by the Privacy Impact Assessment.

The Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) describes how the border patrol in McAllen, Texas will be using the iris-scanning technology to determine its “operational effectiveness” in an “operational setting.” The PIA states that there is no privacy risk associated with the iris scans, as the data collected will be stored in a “standalone system” separate from other DHS networks, and will not be used for other purposes or disseminated to other agencies. The iris images collected in this test run will be anonymous and not linked to the subject’s identity. They will only be used for “quality control,” to evaluate the effectiveness of the scanning technology.

In other words, the PIA completely misses the point.

The privacy and civil liberty concerns related to iris-scanning technology go well beyond those considered in the PIA. DHS should be assessing the privacy implications of the iris-scanning technology itself, not just the privacy impact of the test run.

This is How It Starts...

This is how a surveillance state creeps forward -- through short-term thinking and missing the forest for the trees. The implications of the iris-scanning technology go well beyond this six-week test on the border, but there are no indications that DHS is considering the privacy impact of anything besides this six-week test run.

As for the second concern, the PIA states that “the project is an evaluation of prototype iris camera performance ... and is not considered human subject testing” (emphasis added). First, such a broad, unfounded assertion allows DHS to avoid considering the important privacy implications of this technology. Second, it is questionable whether such a statement would be permissible if this technology were being tested on U.S. citizens, and seems to imply a lesser degree of humanity for the immigrant test subjects.

The PIA also notes that subjects are permitted to opt-out of the iris-collection. Yeah, right. Immigrants who have just been apprehended after a long trek through the hot, dry desert are probably among the least likely populations to decline the testing; in addition, the deportation process is sufficiently terrifying to compel almost anybody to submit to anything DHS requests.

The agency should not be permitted to conduct tests on vulnerable individuals, write off their privacy concerns, and slowly and surreptitiously spend taxpayer money to begin a greater intrusion on civil liberties. The minor privacy intrusion involved in today's test run quickly becomes the major civil liberties violation of tomorrow's implementation. Once DHS has already invested millions of dollars developing and testing the technology, it becomes much more difficult to halt its wider implementation. Money provides momentum.

We are not saying that technologies like iris scanners should never be used. We are saying that DHS needs to be much more careful. DHS must conduct a thorough assessment of the potential impact of technologies like iris-scanners on the civil liberties and privacy of all Americans, then balance these implications against the potential national security benefits. This must be carried out before DHS throws more money towards testing these iris-scanners. It may be politically expedient to slowly implement technology under the cloak of border security, but we cannot allow our country's xenophobic fears to pave the way towards sacrificing our precious civil liberties.


In our UK news media the other day we here of this school (not sure if it is the first one) which is now using face-recognition technology so they will know which children are not showing up---we call it 'playing truant'--. In the media slot it had people saying how great it was! Thing is--I HATED school, and did bunk off otherwise i would have gone madder than I went. Also we are more and more hearing of children who are so bullied in their school years they end up killing themselves! Already in the last month there have been approximately six of these child suicides in America alone, and also several here in the UK. As John Taylor Gattot reveals, the very 'education' system is enforced. Here, if children are found to not be attending classes their parents risk fines, and prison! So along with this pressure they are now using the very invasive surveilance face technology. This WRONG as the branch of the technology you talk about is wrong. VERY fukin wrong!!!

Fight for parental rights to homeschool our children. Children who grow up within the police-patrolled, iron-bar-secured schools of today are indoctrinated into subservience and acceptance of police-state totalitarianism as the new normal. The only way to bring up open-minded, liberty-oriented individuals is home education. In this light, parental rights to homeschool without governmental intrusion is our last great hope for the survival of individual rights and the privacy and sanctity of the family.

They aren't "missing" the point. They are DELIBERATELY not addressing it. They know full well what the implications are. The government has been using this technology in Iraq for years, monitoring the movements of Iraqis. In Fallujah you had to have an iris scan to enter or leave the city. If it's "... not considered human subject testing”, then they should only use it on rattlesnakes, ravens and kangaroo mice that pass through their checkpoints. "Show me your papers, old man" is the same thing as "Show me your iris, old man". The Rich/Big Corporations get that way by ELIMINATING JOBS!

Re: your article about the DHS iris scanning - that was news to me (but I don't get out much!) I thought you may like to know that that is not the only skullduggery they're up to that people do not know about. In our schools (Coronado, California) the DHS runs the remedial program for the kindergarten children. They may also be in the upper grades but my grandson is in kindergarten and I only have first hand experience with that. His mother is an artist and he has inherited her right brain approach to problem solving which is no longer an accepted way of behavior. The schools now seem to have adopted the Chinese way of robotized learning. No phonics no learning letters, sounds, vowels or sounding things out - everything is memorized by sight. Flash cards of words are to be memorized for instant recognition. When my grandson failed to perform to their liking and I think too that they recognized in him a free-thinker, they remanded him to the remedial class with the truly stupid children. There the flash cards and the protocol were drummed into him with cookies as reward for right answers. When he replied to a card that he wasn't sure if it was "this" or "that" he was told not to think to just react. The girls there laughed, making fun of him - for that they were rewarded with cookies. My grandson thought that was beyond unjust and was furious with the whole matter. His parents, upon investigating this "class" - which bye the way, was never mentioned to the them, no permission to leave regular class was given by them and they were not informed that their son was going through this until he came home in tears and told them - were told by the school administration that the DHS conducted these classes and they should be glad they did because the school districts have no money for classes. They (and I) did not think that was true (there is always the money they need, especially in Coronado), we did think that the DHS is robotizing our children. Teaching them to follow orders unconditionally - sit at a computer and do as they're told without thinking. That coupled with the regular military indoctrination these children receive* is a scary way to grow up and scary to think about who and what they will be when they're fully conditioned and trained. We just don't think our child will be cannon fodder - it's not part of our plans for him. *The school has rallies where the children all get out of class, go sit in the field, get candy and watch the Navy SEALS parachute onto the field and a slew of military personnel give talks about how they are the true heroes of our country, how fun it is to be in the Army, Navy, Marines, all the fun stuff you get to do. At the end they were asked..."everyone who wants to be a SEAL, raise your hand". My grandson said "grandma, I didn't raise my hand because I want to be an actor". This travesty is sponsored by the school district and Time Warner Cable. Just yesterday there were no classes because of the all day jog-a-thon to raise money for "Character Building". When my son looked up "Character Building" at the school he found it was Navy wives bringing their laptops to school, Skyping the husbands overseas and sharing it with the whole class - upon which the class elects the military person their "favorite hero". This is during class time and no parent was ever informed. The children also have been taught the military anthems and were video taped singing them for a special for Patriot Day - an event to be televised. For this a permission slip was sent to the parents asking their permission for their child to be taped. The slip did not say why or what they would be doing - just give us your permission to use your child in a televised event. When my son went to school to find out what it was about, he was stonewalled by one person after another until someone spilled the beans and he learned that the children had spent class time for weeks learning these songs and rehearsing the taping. Now the school is complaining to him that they think his son may be missing too many school days and will fall behind in his work (remember, this is kindergarten). Not wanting to make waves -which would result in his son being ostracized, he made a lame reply. At home I said to him, you should have told them...have you noticed that he's only absent on the military indoctrination days? So, my friend, there you have in a nutshell what's going on between the military DHS and our precious offspring. Do they have a chance? Hopefully you can follow up on this and make it a matter of public record. I hope you are so inclined. Everyone who I have told about this is shocked and stunned and they may not believe me as you know there are things going on this world that people just do not want to know. I am too old and too weak to fight but I'm not too old to harass you youngin's into action. Good luck and thank you for your reporting.

I read your post and my hear sank, what they are doing to the children is sinister. In my school they have ROTC and they treat the reps like kings. The kids get stuff, rewards, jackets, and the subtle push to militarize them is on. I am not comfortable with armed forces dily in the building like they belong. Its a poor urban school and I wonder if the wealthier districts would tolerate it. Friends who live in those wealthier, say hell no.

Thank you, L.R., for making the reading, thinking public aware of this outrageous violation of Constitutional balance of power and limitation of governmental scope. I have passed along your enlightening comments to my friends and social circle so others may become aware of this covert indoctrination psy-op being run on American children.