New Department of Homeland Security and Department of State travel requirements have raised concerns among members of Congress, border communities, and civil liberties organizations about privacy rights, economic hardship, commerce, and travel. Starting as early as January 1, 2008, DHS plans to require all travelers entering the U.S. by land or sea to show their passport or an alternative security identification card, the Associate Press reports. The requirements are a part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passed under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act of 2004. Under the WHTI, all persons traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea will be required to present a passport of other documents as required by DHS.
Congress amended the deadline for the implementation of the WHTI from January 1, 2008 to June 1, 2009, however, the U.S. has "every intention of implementing the land rule more rapidly than June 2009," according to Paul Rosenzweig, Acting Assistant for International Affairs.
The passport requirement has raised concerns of economic hardship due to the high cost of passports for families. Passports cost $97 for first-time applicants and $82 for persons under 16 years old, which could economically burden families.
In October 2006, the Department of State proposed an alternative passport card known as the People Access Security Service (PASS) Card. The PASS cards for first-time applicants would cost a total of $35 for minors and $45 for adults including application and execution fees. The proposed cards include an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. Organizations including the ACLU and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have raised concerns that information on the cards could be skimmed by identity thieves. According the Department of State proposal (DOS-2006-0329-0001) published in the Federal Register, the cards would be delivered in a thin protective sleeve designed to protect the card from unauthorized access. According a DHS Privacy Impact Assessment of the WHTI, individuals would have no right to decline whether or not to provide information under the WHTI.
Members of Congress, including Senator Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter have called for a cost-benefit analysis of the WHTI. According to Senator Clinton, "the WHTI not only has far-reaching economic consequences, but also widespread social ramifications for our communities along the northern border" including the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne who live in territories bordering Canada.
In early November, the Department of Homeland Security also released plans to screen all people seeking to enter or exit the United States "by automobile or by foot." DHS issued a notice (DHS-2006-0060) published in the Federal Register stating agency plans to expand use of the Automated Targeting System. The system, originally created to screen shipping cargo, could retain individuals' travel information for up to forty years. According to the Washington Post, the system conducts an individual "risk assessment" based on information from government databases including travel itineraries, credit card information, and law enforcement data. Exemptions from certain provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974 prohibit individual access to system records for the purpose of contesting record contents. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee askedDHS to brief staff members on the program.
For more information on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative click here.
Send the Department of State Comments on the Proposed Passport Card: The passport card proposal (DOS-2006-0329-0001) is open for public comment until December 18, 2006. Please note that all comments submitted may be made public. To send comments visit the Federal Rule-making Portal www.regulations.gov, type in the keyword "DOS-2006-0329-0001" and click "Submit". Select the "Comments" link on the right side and follow the instructions. Please include the agency name (DOS) and Docket number (DOS-2006-0329-0001) in your comments. Let the Department of State know that 1) You are concerned with the affect of the PASS card system on privacy rights; 2) The DOS should analyze the affects of the proposal on border commmunities.
Send DHS Comments on the expansion of the Automated Targeting System for All Travelers: The DHS notice on the expanded use of the Automated Targeting System is open for public comment until by December 4, 2006. Please note that all comments submitted may be made public. To send comments visit the Federal Rule-making Portal www.regulations.gov, type in the keyword "DHS-2006-0060" and click "Submit". Select the "Comments" link on the right side and follow the instructions. Please include the agency name (DHS) and Docket number (DHS-2006-0060) in your comments. Let DHS know that 1) You are concerned with the expanded use of the Automated Targeting System (ATS) to screen all travelers and the impact on individuals' rights, 2) DHS should provide public information on the uses of ATS and the affect on travelers, and 3) DHS should not exempt ATS from any requirement of the Privacy Act of 1974.
Share Your Concerns at the DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee meeting: Share your concerns about the new requirements with DHS. The meeting will be held on December 6, 2006 from 8am to 11:15pm and 12:15pm to 2:30pm in Eden Roc Hotel, 4525 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, 33140. The meeting will be open to the public except for a one-hour administrative session. If you are unable to attend, you can send comments using the Federal Rule-making Portal www.regulations.gov and type in keyword "DHS-2006-0070." Please include the Docket number (DHS-2006-0070) in comments.