By Matthew Rothschild | Big Brother wants your irises. George Bush just issued a directive to expand the acquisition of biometric information, and to ensure that agencies across the executive branch share it.
And the Bush Administration may give it to foreign governments, too.
The directive is aimed at “known and suspected terrorists,” as well as “other persons who may pose a threat to national security.”
The directive does not say how these other persons who “may pose a threat” are to be defined.
And the directive is so broadly worded that it appears to cover anyone the government has biometric or other personal data on.
“To be most effective, national security identification and screening systems will require timely access to the most accurate and most complete biometric, biographic, and related that are, or can be, made available throughout the executive branch,” the
Bush ordered executive departments and agencies to “use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals.” Agencies are supposed to share this information with each other “to the fullest extent permitted by law” whenever “there is an articulable and reasonable basis for suspicion” that an individual poses a “threat to national security.”
The directive does not specify what an “articulable and reasonable basis” might be.
“Known and suspected terrorists,” or KSTs, as the document calls them, are not the only concern of the Bush Administration.
It has whole groups of other people that it wants to gather biometric information on.
Within 90 days, the Attorney General is tasked to “recommend categories of individuals in addition to KSTs who may pose a threat to national security,” and he is ordered to “set forth cost-effective actions and associated timelines for expanding the collection and use of biometrics to identify and screen for such individuals.”
The Attorney General is to coordinate this “with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], and the Director of Science and Technology Policy.”
The Attorney General is also required to identify “legal authorities” to implement the
The directive states that it wants to expand the use of biometrics on individuals “in a lawful and appropriate manner, while respecting their information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.”
But the directive offers no suggestion about how those rights would be protected.
The directive also says that the Secretary of State “shall coordinate the sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information with foreign partners.”
Under what circumstances the Secretary of State would share such information with “foreign partners” remains unclear. All the directive says is that it would happen “in accordance with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States.”
Give the Bush Administration’s demonstrated disdain for applicable law and international obligations, and given its record of violating people’s privacy rights, this is not reassuring.