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    USA Today: Do databases cross a line in border checks?

    USA Today reports on the issue of privacy and civil liberties at international border checkpoints. I’ve written previously about searches and seizures by U.S. Border Patrol.

    Thousands of times each day, Canadian authorities tap into sensitive U.S. government databases to check the criminal histories of U.S. citizens who are crossing the border or have been entangled in the Canadian criminal justice system, FBI records show. The databases are an integral part of security operations for Canadian officials, who are preparing for June meetings of the Group of Eight summit of the world’s leading economic powers and the G-20 leaders of developed and developing countries. The summit meetings have drawn thousands of protesters in the past, including at last year’s G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh.

    The databases “provide invaluable investigative assistance” daily for law enforcement and support agencies, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement.

    During the Winter Olympics, Canadian authorities ran nearly 10,000 criminal history checks per day, more inquiries than some U.S. states perform each day, FBI records show. […]

    The U.S. has no independent authority to audit Canada’s use, [says Roy Weise, senior adviser to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division], and Canada has no authority to police U.S. queries of its system. Weise and RCMP Sgt. Greg Cox say the two countries conduct regular internal audits of their own use.

    Yet some U.S. and Canadian analysts say the countries’ frequent use of the systems raises serious privacy and information security concerns potentially involving millions of people on both sides of the border. […]

    [An ACLU attorney and former FBI agent] says Canada’s access to such detailed — and possibly outdated — personal histories of U.S. citizens, including decades-old misdemeanors, can result in wrongful detention, interrogation and foreign travel bans.

    About half of the arrest records in the system have not been updated to reflect convictions, dismissals or acquittals, Weise said, adding that local law enforcement agencies are responsible for giving the FBI updated information.

    Susan Ginsburg, a former senior staffer on the 9/11 Commission, says privacy and information security laws are “seriously lacking” to keep pace with nations’ demands for information to enhance domestic security.

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