Invasive New Airport Screenings May Put Privacy at Risk

It’s a Christmas motif almost as ubiquitous as Christmas trees or sleigh bells—families and individuals hastily making their way through airports, balancing presents, bags, and children, excited to make their way home to spend Christmas with their loved ones.

They’re concerned with their flight status, the weather in their destination, their luggage making it to the destination, or the likelihood they will get selected for a random TSA pat-down and any other number of travel-related factors.

But in 2018, there may be another worry to add to that already long list of travel woes.

At some point next year, the Department Homeland Security is hoping to implement mandatory facial scans for all people—American citizens included—who are flying internationally. In fact, they’ve already rolled out this invasive practice in a handful of airports this holiday season.

This new invasion of Americans’ privacy caught the attention of Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whose own Logan International Airport was one of the airports selected for the rollout. We wrote a letter together to get more information from Homeland Security about this program.

There are a number of issues with this program, including that Homeland Security hasn’t instituted a way to let travelers know that they will be subjected to this scan before they fly.

But more importantly there is no evidence to show that this facial scan actually works. Homeland Security is hoping to use this technology accurately 96 percent of the time. But even at that rate, 1 of 25 travelers would still be misidentified and improperly flagged by Homeland Security.

Additional evidence shows gender and ethnicity increase the likelihood of being improperly flagged.

But perhaps the biggest concern is how the government will use this accumulated data and whether or not Homeland Security is even allowed to collect it in the first place.

As of now, the information is supposedly only shared with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to check for fraud, and then deleted from the Homeland Security database after 14 days.

But in our examination of the program, we have not seen satisfactory safeguards that protect this information from being accessed by third-party groups or that show these protocols are actually being followed.

The Department of Homeland Security is ushering in this program in an attempt to fulfill a congressional mandate that says a biometric exit program needs to be in place for international travelers. However, they have gone beyond this directive as the mandate passed by Congress did not allow for facial scans to be used on American citizens.

For the Department of Homeland Security to do this stands in direct conflict with the Constitution and its Fourth Amendment protection of privacy.

Until the Department of Homeland Security is willing to address these problems and provide myself, Markey, and Congress sufficient evidence to prove the program falls within the constraints of its congressional mandate, Homeland Security should provide American citizens with a timely Christmas present—protecting their rights by not only stopping this program’s expansion, but stopping it’s use entirely.

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Trump Calls Out Russia, China in National Security Address

President Donald Trump presented his national security strategy as what he called a reassertion of fundamental truths and “principled realism.”

“Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both,” @POTUS says.

“A nation without borders is not a nation. A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad,” the president said Monday, speaking at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.

Trump noted that economic policy and international trade are closely tied to national security.

“A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war,” Trump continued. “A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future, and a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.”

The 70-page strategic document establishes four pillars of U.S. security interests:

1.) Protecting the American people, the homeland, in part through border security that includes constructing a southern border wall and ending chain migration.

2.) Promoting American prosperity by ensuring America remains competitive through what the president called “fair and reciprocal” trade deals.

3.) Preserving peace through strength, which includes rebuilding the military, getting rid of the military sequester and missile defense.

4.) Advancing American influence, in part through leading and advocating reforms in international groups such as the United Nations and and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Trump was clear that the United States would compete with other countries—namely Russia and China—but would also seek common ground on international challenges such as North Korea and Islamist terrorism.

“We also face rival powers, Russia and China, that seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth,” Trump said. “We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interests.”

The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act requires the president to submit a national security strategy to Congress. President Barack Obama only submitted such plans to Congress in 2010 and 2015.

The document Trump submitted had a stronger focus on the economy, as the president said, “Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both.”

“We know that American success is not a foregone conclusion. It must be earned and it must be won,” Trump said. “Our rivals are tough. They are tenacious and committed to the long term, but so are we. To succeed, we must integrate every dimension of our national strength and we must compete with every instrument of our national power. … America is in the game and America is going to win.”

The national security strategy says:

The United States will respond to the growing political, economic, and military competitions we face around the world. China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.

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Attempted New York Bombing Calls for Renewed Vigilance Against Homegrown Terrorism

The attempted suicide bombing by Akayed Ullah in New York on Monday is the 101st Islamist plot or attack against the U.S. homeland since 9/11.

While the device did not succeed in causing the destruction that Ullah wished, the U.S. must redouble its commitment to stopping terrorists before they strike.

Ullah came to the U.S. from Bangladesh in 2011 on a family-based green card. According to authorities, he began radicalizing in 2014 and began researching bomb making in the past year. Ullah watched various pro-ISIS materials during this time.

Before the attack, he made several social media posts, including the statement, “Trump you failed to protect your nation,” and another indicating the attack was in the name of ISIS.

Ullah attached his homemade pipe bomb to his person and entered the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal on Monday morning and exploded the device. Thankfully, it did not cause serious injury to commuters. Ullah was then taken to the hospital with burn injuries around his abdomen.

When interviewed, Ullah claimed that he “did it for the Islamic State” and that he had attacked the terminal on a weekday to maximize casualties and terror.

This is attack is the 23rd Islamist plot or attack since 9/11 to target New York City, the most targeted city by far. It is also the 12th attack or plot targeting mass transit systems. While it thankfully was not deadly, it is the 17th Islamist attack to be completed out of 101 plots. It is the 6th plot of 2017.

This plot also continues the trend of terror plots that are homegrown–that is, carried out by terrorists who radicalized in the U.S. This attack is the 89th plot or attack that was entirely or largely homegrown in nature. It speaks to the importance of assimilating immigrants into American society once they arrive here.

The government should not be dividing Americans into various identity groups, but should instead seek to affirm the e pluribus unum” character of the nation.

This case also calls for continued improvements to our intelligence programs and agencies. The FBI must continue to improve the way it shares information with state and local partners, especially given the growth of terror investigations during the past several years.

Policymakers must also ensure that intelligence and law enforcement agencies have access to the intelligence they need to foil terror plots.

This includes reauthorizing the FISA 701 program in its entirety. Putting up walls between various agencies such as by adding additional warrant requirements for information that has already been lawfully collected will weaken the United States’ ability to find and stop terrorists.

The attack on the New York Port Authority terminal is a reminder that while ISIS is being driven from its strongholds in the Middle East, its followers and sympathizers, and those of other Islamist terror groups, remain dedicated to striking the U.S homeland. The United States must remain vigilant.

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Podcast: Botched Terror Attack on US Homeland

Monday’s botched terror attack in New York is another example of homegrown terrorism.

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi national in his late twenties, is reported to have set off a bomb at the Port Authority bus station in Manhattan. Fortunately, the bomb went off early and there were no deaths, though at least three were wounded and the terrorist himself was badly injured.

Since 9/11, there have been over 100 terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland, and nearly 88 have been acts of homegrown terror. Early reports indicate that Monday’s attack was inspired by ISIS, but more investigation and interviews must be done first.

Heritage Foundation security and cyber expert David Inserra joined The Daily Signal podcast today to break down keys to fighting terrorism, both in the short and long run. He also discussed the future of the Department of Homeland Security under its new secretary.

Here are the highlights.

1. Assimilation is key.

Vetting and enforcement of immigration laws are extremely important to stopping radicalization and terrorism on the U.S. homeland. When people feel loyal and indebted to this country and respect our values, culture, and ideals, they are more likely to assimilate and be engaged members of our communities rather than radicalize.

The failure to assimilate is a problem that our country faces with both immigrants and refugees, and there is no clear solution to it. But acknowledging the importance of assimilation is a critical first step to recovering the reality of “e pluribus unum” — out of many, one.

2. Congress must privatize the TSA.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) routinely undergoes “Red Team” tests to measure how well security practices and standards are implemented. In 2015, the TSA failure rate was an abysmal 95 percent. Nearly three years later, the rate has only fallen to 80 percent, some sources indicate.

In the private sector, any company with a performance as atrocious as this would be making serious changes in personnel and procedure.

It’s time for Congress to act and privatize the TSA. Doing so would increase accountability and productivity, would be cost-effective, and would not compromise our security. Other countries like Canada have taken this path, and have seen success.

By making TSA strictly into an oversight and managerial agency, private company would be enabled to provide high-quality security, while allowing the TSA to do what it does best: regulate and hold accountable. That’s the opposite of how the system works now.

3. Kirstjen Nielson’s confirmation is a win for Homeland Security.

Kirstjen Nielson is a highly competent, experienced leader who is the right person to the lead the Department of Homeland Security in John Kelly’s absence. The Senate recently confirmed her in a 62-37 vote.

Nielson served on President George W. Bush’s homeland security council, and also worked at the TSA. She has also worked at George Washington University’s prestigious Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, and began her own homeland security consulting firm.

The Department of Homeland Security faces several critical challenges, but Nielson is well-equipped to handle them and to serve.

>>> Related: Trump Ties New York Terror Attack to Immigration Reforms

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