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Intersection: Sidewalks & Public Space

Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    USA Today: More use trusted traveler plans to scoot through customs

    Airports that include the Global Entry program
    – Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
    – Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
    – Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
    – Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
    – Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
    – George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston (IAH)
    – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
    – Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
    – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
    – McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas (LAS)
    – Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
    – Miami International Airport (MIA)
    – Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
    – Orlando International Airport (MCO)
    – Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
    – San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
    – San Juan-Luis Moz Marin International Airport (SJU)
    – Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB)
    – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport-SeaTac (SEA)
    – Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD
    Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection via USA Today

    USA Today reports on “trusted traveler” programs being used by the U.S. government: Global Entry for international travelers, Nexus for USA-Canada crossings, and Sentri for USA-Mexico border crossings. ”Trusted traveler programs require a government background check, including submitting fingerprints. That takes about four to six weeks. People with criminal records and those in violation of immigration laws are ineligible. Global Entry applicants pay a one-time $100 fee; Nexus applicants, $50; and Sentri, $122.50. Memberships last five years.”

    People who sign up for “trusted traveler” programs like the perks, especially the ability to speed through security lines. However, such programs create security loopholes for criminals to exploit. Trusted traveler programs are created under the mistaken assumption that if one can identify an individual, then one can learn that person’s intent. But that is just wrong. Such trusted traveler programs divide people into three groups: “trusted” individuals, “untrusted” individuals, and untrustworthy individuals who can get into the program’s trusted group. Criminal rings will choose applicants without previous links to terrorism, who can pass the background checks and join trusted traveler programs, to commit their crimes. For example, Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber could have passed the background checks – they had no previous links to terrorism.

    There is also no such thing as a “typical terrorist profile.” Consider the many differences among McVeigh, the Unabomber (Theodore J. Kaczynski), and the perpetrators of the July 2005 bombings in London. It is clear that there is no such thing as the “typical terrorist,” and it is important for both security forces and the public to understand this. This will help to combat prejudices or stereotypes that can cloud intelligent and thorough investigations.

    Privacy and civil liberties advocates aren’t the only ones who argue there’s no typical terrorist. A couple years ago, the UK’s counterintelligence agency MI5’s Behavioural Science Unit wrote a report, “Understanding radicalisation and extremism in the UK.” The Guardian reported, “The sophisticated analysis, based on hundreds of case studies by the security service, says there is no single pathway to violent extremism,” no typical terrorist profile.

    Another privacy question concerning such trusted traveler programs has to do with ownership of the data gathered on individuals. For example, “Clear” was the leading company in the Transportation Security Administration’s Registered Traveler program, which offered dedicated security lines for travelers who paid an annual fee, passed a background check and submitted biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints. Clear announced in June that it had gone out of business. A judge later ordered the company not to sell the biometric data it collected from its more than 250,000 customers — data travelers considered to be highly personal and private, data that the company’s contract with its customers forbade from being sold. After shutting down the Clear service, parent company Verified Identity Pass said it was looking to sell Clear customer information.

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