Late last night, a Congressional Conference Committee released its budget for the Department of Homeland Security, as part of a deal to avert another government shutdown.
Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the Future, had this to say about the deal:
"It’s sickening to see both Republicans and Democrats add significant funding for invasive surveillance technologies to trample on millions of people’s basic rights at a mass scale." She said.
"The US government’s mass surveillance programs are already out of control. We should be dismantling them not expanding them. Agencies like DHS, ICE, and Border Patrol have shown reckless disregard for basic human rights, dignity, and the constitution. We call on Members of Congress to demand that funding not be used to for dangerous technology that violates rights, and to vote against this deal unless changes are made."
For info, the deal earmarks:
- $100 million explicitly for "border surveillance technology,” including “small unmanned aerial systems,” meaning drones. These technologies are capable of invading millions of people’s privacy.
- Reinstates funding for the TSA’s controversial Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) program, which conducts warrantless searches of travelers with no proven security benefit;
- Provides $230 million for the Department of Homeland Security Office of Biometric Identity Management, which is tasked with conducting dangerous and invasive surveillance including the collection of DNA and biometric information from travelers, & facial recognition
- Appears to include significant funding for experimental research into biometrics and surveillance technology under programs like “Biometrics Technology Engine,” “Port and Coastal Surveillance,” and "Enabling Unmanned Aerial Systems.“
- Disturbingly it includes $10 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s "Silicon Valley Innovation Project” which offers government grants to entice tech companies to build surveillance and military technology.
Yesterday Defending Rights and Dissent, Access Now, Fight for the Future, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Free Press Action, and Demand Progress delivered thousands of signatures to Speaker Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill demanding the Democrats not to expand border wall surveillance. This follows a letter signed by 28 human and civil rights groups last week calling on Members of Congress not to fund specific technologies at the border.
Fight for the Future published an opinion piece slamming the surveillance wall funding yesterday in the Washington Post, and this morning Mijente published an opinion piece on the same topic in the Guardian.