U.S. to Insist That Travel Industry Get Fingerprints
By Spencer S. Hsu and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; Page A08
The U.S. government today will order commercial airlines and cruise lines to prepare to collect digital fingerprints of all foreigners before they depart the country under a security initiative that the industry has condemned as costly and burdensome.
The proposal does not say where airlines must collect fingerprints — at airport check-in counters, departure gates or kiosks somewhere in between. But the government estimates the undertaking will cost airlines $2.3 billion over 10 years, a U.S. homeland security official said.
The overall economic impact on companies, passengers and the government is expected to exceed $3.5 billion, industry lobbyists said, at a time when carriers are struggling with safety concerns, high fuel costs and passenger complaints.
Formal announcement of the plan to track the departure of foreign visitors, as part of the Homeland Security Department’s US-VISIT program, comes after an extended battle between the security agency and airlines.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff linked the effort to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws recently, saying airlines were obstructing the measure for commercial reasons.
“If we don’t have US-VISIT air exit by this time next year, it will only be because the airline industry killed it,” Chertoff said recently. “We have to decide who is going to win this fight. Is it going to be the airline industry, or is it going to be the people who believe we should know who leaves the country by air?”
Doug Lavin, regional vice president for the International Air Transport Association, which represents major U.S. and international carriers, said the government, not airlines, should collect fingerprints. “This is ludicrous,” Lavin said. “We can’t afford anything in the billions to support a program that should be a government program.”
Fingerprinting an estimated 33 million departing foreign passengers a year will result in “delayed departures, missed connections here and around the world,” Lavin said.
Launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, US-VISIT is intended to automate the processing of visitors entering and exiting the country, using fingerprints and digital photographs to help find criminals, potential terrorists and people who overstay visas and join the nation’s illegal immigrant population.
While the program has succeeded in recording nearly 100 million people entering the country since 2004, the DHS has struggled to implement the exit portion. Frustrated at the department’s slow pace, Congress last year set a June 2009 deadline for DHS to collect fingerprints from departing air passengers in a law to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Otherwise, Congress said, the government cannot expand the Visa Waiver Program, under which residents of 27 friendly countries can visit the United States without a visa. Inclusion is a priority for nations including South Korea and Greece, and the tourism industry has also targeted South America for expansion.
The proposal will be open for a 60-day comment period. DHS could decide after that time where fingerprinting must be conducted, or it could leave the decision up to airlines, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the proposal has not been formally announced.
We also know that the USVISIT ‘exit system’ is not in place.
USVISIT is a costly boondoggle. The penny has dropped about this, and Uncle Sham does not want to spend any more money on it.
Instead of building the infrastructure of the exit systems themselves, they are going to shift the burden on making it work to the airlines.
Like it says in this post, the exit system is currently VOLUNTARY. That is clearly insane, almost as insane as the USVISIT itself.
Pocket Satan Chertoff now says that, “If we don’t have US-VISIT air exit by this time next year, it will only be because the airline industry killed it,”. Once again, we have a government putting ‘border security’ (which this clearly is not, it is Security Theatre not real security) in the hands of private companies, and, quite absurdly, claiming that if the system is not in place, it is the fault of those companies, not the government. This is exactly what the UK government has done with fingerprinting at Heathrow Terminal 5.
If USVISIT is so very important, a key part of the US ‘security strategy’, and if the ‘terrorist threat’ was real, then to leave its complete implementation to the will of private companies is insane, and blatantly negligent.
The fact is that the living bag of bones Chertoff knows very well that USVISIT is a failure, that it has cost over $1.3 billion, apprehended only “1,200 criminals and immigration violators” and that any further money spend on this immoral, useless, wasteful, disgraceful, awful, satanic, abominable, monstrous, insane and stupid project would be indefensible, even to the expert and frictionless lie machine of ‘Homeland Security’.
Our only hope is that the airlines grow a backbone and stand up for the rights of their customers. Certainly, BA will be very reluctant to go along with this, after having been stung by their Terminal 5 fingerprinting fiasco, which is set to cost them some money, never mind the embarrassment.
The biometric fad, the most recent in a long line of snake oil solutions to non existent problems, is going to be consigned to the dustbin of technology history, along with 8 track tapes and other obsolete contraptions that seem absurd today. This fad is going to dies faster as more people wake up to what these tools really mean, and how corrosive they are to human society.
And so do you.
One can only hope that the economic collapse of the USA will make it impossible for them to maintain this foolishness as their empire implodes and there is no money to run these insane programs. File under the spinoffs and benefits of Imperial collapse.