(TMU) — On January 3, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a Privacy Impact Assessment detailing plans to collect DNA from individuals temporarily detained at border crossings.
Border Patrol launched the 90 day pilot program on Monday at the Canadian border near Detroit and at the official port of entry at Eagle Pass, Texas. After the pilot period the program will be expanded nationwide.
According to the Privacy Impact Assessment, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Laboratory provides DNA collection kits which allow authorities to take a cheek swab and send the DNA samples to the FBI. CBP and ICE have already had the legal authority to collect DNA from detained persons since the passage of the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005. However, while previous efforts to collect DNA have focused exclusively on foreign citizens, this is the first attempt to collect DNA of individuals who are detained but not charged with a crime.
The Assessment states:
“Effective January 6, 2020, CBP will begin collecting DNA from any person in CBP custody who is subject to fingerprinting. This will include aliens as well as United States citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (U.S. Persons). As with all other DNA samples that federal law enforcement agencies collect under the authority of the DNA Fingerprint Act, CBP will send DNA samples from its DNA population13 to the FBI, which will enter results into CODIS.
The authorized method of DNA sample collection from non-convicts in federal custody, such as those detained for some administrative immigration violations, is by buccal (cheek) swab. Using DNA sample kits provided by the FBI, CBP agents and officers will collect a DNA sample by taking a cheek swab from every individual within scope of the new regulation and submit the DNA samples to the FBI for processing and entry in the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) system.”
The assessment clearly outlines the groups who will be affected by the DNA collection program once fully implemented. This includes criminal arrestees—including U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and aliens—all non-U.S. Persons detained for processing under administrative proceedings and released on their own recognizance; all non-U.S. Persons who are detained for processing under administrative proceedings and voluntary withdraw application; all non-U.S. Persons subject to expedited removal, reinstatement of removal, or administrative removal; and all voluntary returns.
Stephen Kang, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times that the new DNA collection procedures “raises a lot of very serious, practical concerns, I think, and real questions about coercion.”
The assessment pays lip service to examining privacy risks but offers no real solutions. The federal agencies’ main concerns seem to be that people are not aware they have no choice when it comes to handing over their DNA. For example, the DHS worries that “individuals in federal custody will not be aware they must provide a DNA sample to law enforcement officers.” In fact, another privacy risk plainly states that “DNA collection requires no consent and is not voluntary.”
The section titled “Mitigation” states:
“This risk cannot be mitigated. If individuals refuse to provide a DNA sample (i.e., are not compliant), then DHS may pursue criminal prosecution. The statute mandating DNA sample collection specifically states that an individual subject to DNA-sample collection who fails to cooperate in the collection of that sample may be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”
Another section titled “Privacy Risk” notes that “individuals whose DNA sample is collected while the individuals are children will not be aware that their DNA profile will remain on file with FBI in perpetuity.” It is this collection and storage of DNA “in perpetuity” which sparked backlash from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and a coalition of civil liberties and immigrant rights organizations.
The organizations first opposed a rule change that expanded the DNA collection abilities of CBP and ICE. The coalition called the rule “unacceptable and unnecessary privacy intrusion” that will have a dangerous impact on the individual being detained but also their family members. In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, EPIC argued that law enforcement’s warrantless collection of DNA is unconstitutional.
The DNA collection plans come after the October 2019 announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ) detailing their plans to mandate DNA collection almost all immigrants who cross the border and are held temporarily. Unlike the DHS assessment, the DOJ announcement did not apply to permanent residents or those legally entering the United States.
The consideration of DNA collection is one that has long been discussed by the Trump administration and supporters of his vision of building a wall between the United States and Mexico. The Border Security for America Act—one of several bills considered in relation to Trump’s desire to build a wall—would require new biometric systems to be up and running at the nation’s 15 busiest airports, seaports, and land ports within two years. After five years all land and sea ports of entry would require biometric systems to be running.
Some of the most worrisome portions of the bill include biometric scanning of all people who exit the United States, both citizens, and foreigners. In addition, the text of the bill calls for DNA collection of “any individual filing an application, petition, or other request for immigration benefit or status.”
Of course, the use of DNA collection and profiling has long been the domain of the U.S. government. Back in 2015, under the Obama administration, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations for failing to provide documents related to the Rapid DNA system. The FBI said they found no responsive records to Freedom of Information Act requests made by the EFF.
Rapid DNA analyzers are machines designed to allow processing of a DNA sample in as little as 50 minutes. The machines are portable and roughly about the same size as a laser printer. This means that law enforcement using Rapid DNA can collect a DNA sample from a suspect, and match the profile against a database without the help of a scientist in an accredited lab. The EFF stated this would lead to further invasions of privacy.
“I Never Thought I’d Live to See This Day”: The Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons
Today is the day the United Nation’s Treaty on Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. It’s the long planned but seemingly impossible day millions — if not billions — of people have waited for since Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945.
Today, the U.N. treaty declares that the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law, 75 years after their development and first use. Actions, events, vigils and celebrations will be held around the nation and the globe to mark this historic moment.
Even though I’ve spent most of my life working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I never thought I’d live to see this day. The most striking test of faith came in none other than Oslo, Norway, where my friend, actor Martin Sheen, and I were invited to be the keynote speakers at the launch of something called “The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” or ICAN, which went on to the win the Nobel Peace Prize.
I have been arrested dozens of times for nonviolent civil disobedience actions against nuclear weapons, including at the White House, the Pentagon, several Trident submarine bases, the SAC command base near Omaha, Nebraska, the Nevada Test Site and Livermore Labs. Since 2003, I have led the annual Hiroshima Day peace vigil outside the national nuclear weapons labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I had been planning with friends a major anti-nuclear vigil, rally and conference near Los Alamos, New Mexico to mark the 75thanniversary of Hiroshima, but instead, we held a powerful virtual online conference seen by thousands that featured Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility and one of the leaders of ICAN.
On Dec. 7, 1993, with Philip Berrigan and two friends, I walked on to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, right through the middle of national war games, up to one of the nuclear-capable F15 fighter bombers and hammered on it, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that some day people would “beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.” For that act, I faced 20 years in prison, was convicted on several felony counts, spent nine months in a tiny cell, several years under house arrest and continued to be heavily monitored by the government. My friends, Dan and Phil Berrigan, who launched the Plowshares movement dreamed of this day. Other friends sit in prisons across the nation today for their recent actions.
But this was something else. This was a first for me. We had been brought to Oslo by the Norwegian government. We stood before some 900 people that Saturday night, March 1, 2013, at the civic forum, which preceded the global gathering of representatives from over 132 nations. (Of course, the United States refused to attend.) The formal meeting would start Monday morning. As far as we could tell, there had never been such a conference before in history.
Martin began his talk by thanking ICAN for their work to build a global abolition movement, and encouraged everyone to keep at it. He read aloud their general call for nuclear-armed states to completely eliminate nuclear weapons—and a treaty banning any state from developing them.
For the next 48 hours we spoke non-stop, in workshops, to the press, to small groups and large groups. We were given a private tour of the Nobel Peace Prize museum, attended a reception with the Norwegian Parliament and met many members and politicians whom we urged to carry on their initiative for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including Norway’s foreign minister, the Vice President of Parliament, and the Mayor of Oslo.
It was there at that reception that we met Dr. Ira Helfand, who told us that—for the first time in four decades—he felt hopeful about nuclear disarmament. There has never been such an important gathering in history, he said with a smile.
At one point during the ICAN conference, a teenage student asked to speak privately with me. He confided that he was one of the survivors of the massacre a year and a half before, when an insane shooter killed 78 children during their summer camp on an island in a large lake not far from Oslo. My new friend told me how he dodged the bullets and swam far out into the lake and barely survived. He wanted to talk with me about nonviolence and forgiveness. I encouraged him on his journey of healing toward a deeper peace, but was profoundly moved by his connection between the summer camp massacre and the global massacre that can be unleashed through nuclear weapons. He saw now what most people refuse to see. And he was determined to do his part to prevent a global massacre of children.
All of these experiences were so touching and inspiring, but there was something even more powerful afoot. From the moment we landed in Oslo, as we met various dignitaries and longtime anti-nuclear leaders from around the globe, we heard the same statement over and over again: We are going to abolish nuclear weapons.
After a while, Martin and I looked at one another and thought to ourselves: something’s not right with these people. Sure, we do what we can, of course, but we’re not going to live to see the abolition of nuclear weapons. Our new friends were drinking the Kool-Aid.
But we didn’t know who we were dealing with, nor did we yet understand the faith and hope that undergirds lasting global change movements. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to outlaw landmines in 1997. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to ban cluster bombs in 2008. Now, they were telling us calmly, they were setting their sights on nuclear weapons. They intended to use the same tried and true strategy to slowly plot their end. This was going to work. No doubt about it.
All we have to do is get 50 nations to sign a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, they said; then we can slowly chip away at every other nation in the world, until all that are left of the nine nuclear weapons nations who will eventually be shamed into dismantling their weapons and signing the United Nations’ Treaty. It was a no-brainer.
“Well, good luck with that,” we said.
And here we are. Today, the treaty goes into effect. Today is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.
For my friends and me, this is a day we never quite believed we would see.
“Right now, the treaty does not legally apply to the United States,” said Ken Mayers of Veterans for Peace New Mexico, “because we have not signed or ratified it. But that does not mean we will not be feeling the moral force of the treaty. All nuclear weapons, including the thousands in the U.S. stockpile, have been declared unlawful by the international community.”
Mayers and others will keep vigil today near the labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico, calling for an end to weapons development. Similar vigils will be held across the United States today with banners hung outside nuclear weapons production sites declaring “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal!”
“The treaty is a turning point,” said Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. “On the one hand, it is the end of a long process to outlaw nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of a new movement to confront nuclear weapons states and demand they lift the dark shadow of nuclear annihilation that has loomed over the world for the last 75 years.”
“The U.S. was among the last major countries to abolish slavery but did so in the end,” said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “To modify Dr. King’s famous quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards [the] justice’ of abolishing nuclear weapons. This ban treaty is the beginning of that end and should be celebrated as such.”
Every time we have journeyed up to Los Alamos over the years, we offered the same, simple message: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they can’t protest us; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure; they’re sinful, immoral and inhuman. They bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.
According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian-based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, to be orchestrated by the United Nations, we could make war itself obsolete.
The work of ICAN and the United Nations to get 50 nations to outlaw nuclear weapons and build a process toward their elimination is one of the most exciting, hopeful—if widely ignored—movements in the world today.
Just before Christmas, Dr. Helfand called me. He continues to work morning to night in a Massachusetts clinic treating COVID patients, but he wanted to talk about the treaty. “How can we push Americans to demand that the United States sign the treaty and dismantle our arsenal,” he asked me? “How can we mobilize the movement to make President Biden and the U.S. Congress do the right thing?”
That’s the question. We talked about various efforts we could make, and agreed to do what we could. “The responsibility lies with us,” he said. “We were the first to use nuclear weapons; we must be the ones to end them once and for all.”
A few days later, he sent me an email with the gist of our message. In addition to climate change, the nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world pose an existential threat to humanity. The threat of nuclear war has never been greater, with tensions rising between the United States, Russia and China. Even a limited nuclear war could kill hundreds of millions, and bring about a global famine that would put billions of people at risk. A larger war could kill the vast majority of humanity.
“This is not the future that must be,” Dr. Helfand wrote me. “Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature. They are little machines that we have built with our own hands, and we know how to take them apart. Nations around the world have come together in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is time for us to move back from the brink and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.”
And so, the day has come when that long dreamed of future has become a real possibility. Our task is to make the possible probable, and then actual. Time to get back to work. We need to call President Biden and Congress, write letters to the editor, mobilize the movement, tell the nation: Let’s abolish nuclear weapons now, once and forever, and use the billions of dollars we spend on these weapons to vaccinate everyone, rebuild our nation, protect the environment, abolish war and poverty, and welcome a new culture of peace and nonviolence.
As I learned in Oslo, anything is possible if you believe.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
33 Missing Children Recovered During Human Trafficking Operation
A large human trafficking investigation in Southern California involving multiple law enforcement agencies successfully recovered 33 missing children during a recent operation.
The FBI announced the conclusion of the investigation this week, and disclosed that there are currently over 1,800 investigations involving missing and exploited children. The investigation was called “Operation Lost Angels” and began on January 11th as a part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
While few details were revealed about the cases, the FBI said that at least 8 of the children had been sexually exploited. The agency noted that there has been an increase in child trafficking cases in recent years.
According to a statement from the FBI, “It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud or coercion. This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”
Assistant FBI Director Kristi K. Johnson told FOX 11 Los Angeles that, “The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery, and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims. While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”
Statements from investigators also noted that some of the children needed multiple interventions after returning to whoever was exploiting them. Investigations into numerous suspects have been opened and one suspected human trafficker has been arrested. The FBI also noted that not all of the children were victims of trafficking, for example, one of the children was kidnapped by their parent during a custody battle.
The FBI announced that they made 473 human trafficking arrests last year and initiated 664 investigations across the country.
This is just one of many similar operations that have taken place across the state, and the entire country in recent years.
Over the past five years, the US Marshal Service (USMS) has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children.
Late last year, a massive law enforcement operation in Ohio called Operation Autumn Hope resulted in the arrest of 179 people under suspicion of human trafficking, and the rescue of 109 victims, 45 of whom were missing children. Some victims were as young as 14 or 15 years old.
Another effort, called Operation Stolen Innocence, concluded in Tallahassee, Florida, in November, with the arrest of 170 people.
Investigators are urging victims and people who are aware of victims to speak out. Victims and witnesses can report information to the Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.
Teachers Union Berated Trump for Reopening Schools, Now It’s Praising Biden for Doing the Same
The same teachers’ organization that roundly condemned Donald Trump’s attempts to prematurely reopen schools are now applauding Biden’s decision to do the same, even as the coronavirus pandemic reaches new levels.
Joe Biden has made the reopening of schools, colleges, and universities a key priority. On his first full day in office, he signed an executive order “to support the safe reopening and continued operation of schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and institutions of higher education,” hoping to achieve a near full reopening within 100 days. The order states that the 78-year-old former Delaware senator considers it his duty to “ensure that students receive a high-quality education during the coronavirus.”
The country’s largest labor union, the National Education Association (NEA) came out in strong support of the move. “President Biden’s plan provides great reason for sorely-needed optimism” said the organization’s new president, Becky Pringle. “Educators are encouraged not only by President Biden’s leadership, but also by knowing that there is finally a true partner in the White House who will prioritize students by working with educators in the decision-making process,” she added in an official statement.
The NEA has a close relationship with the Democratic Party. Over 97% of NEA political donations in the last two years went to the Democrats, the organization endorsing Joe Biden for president and calling for Trump’s immediate removal from office earlier this month while putting out official statements mourning the death of liberal icons like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Indeed, García was reported to be among the front runners for Biden’s pick as Secretary of Education.
This is quite the U-turn from the union, which boasts a membership of nearly 2.3 million educators nationwide. In April, as President Trump was attempting to do the same thing, the NEA offered blistering opposition. “Trump’s call to reopen school buildings is dangerous for students [and] staff,” it wrote, condemning the president’s attempts to sacrifice teachers for the sake of reopening the economy.
Similarly, in September, the organization was categorically against Trump’s renewed push to reopen. No one should listen to Trump or his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, claimed then-NEA leader Lily Eskelsen García, accusing him of “creating more panic for stressed families” and “politicizing” the reopening of schools by linking it with the November election. Yet Biden has made clear that his decision was made on the same “save the economy” logic as Trump’s. When schools are open again, “Think of all the people who can get back to work,” he said, as he signed the order, “all the mothers and single fathers that are staying home taking care of their children.”
While we may know more about the virus now than last year, it seems clear that the pandemic is actually far more out of control now than previously. In late April, the U.S. was averaging 30,248 new cases per day and 2,010 deaths, per Worldometers data. In September, those numbers were 35,934 daily cases and 757 deaths. Today, however, the country can expect to see 193,758 new cases and around 3,176 new deaths. In fact, the ten deadliest coronavirus days have all occurred in the past four weeks. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that the majority of Americans consider the pandemic to be completely out of control.
Biden’s decision also comes at a time when comparable nations are quickly moving in the opposite direction. Authorities in the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands have all announced the closure of schools, despite lower rates of contagion than the U.S. in some cases.
“The problem is not that schools are unsafe for children,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made the decision to close them for three months, despite previously being adamantly against the idea in principle. “The problem is schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.” European studies have shown that, although highly unlikely to be gravely affected by the virus themselves, children are as likely to contract and pass it on as adults, making schools potential superspreading potshots. British teachers are twice as likely to contract the coronavirus as the general population. COVID cases among American educators are also rising. While there are reasons to support reopening, particularly the psychological toll that isolation takes on children and the loss of valuable teaching time, other nations see the virus as a greater danger.
The union’s decision to support school reopening, even as the pandemic hits new heights, might suggest to some that leadership is putting its loyalties towards the party before its membership and giving Democrats a free pass.
Republished from MintPressNews.com under Creative Commons
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