Tag Archives: virtual fence

Bush Scraps Anti-Immigrant Border Fence, but Boondoggle to Continue

It was announced yesterday that Bushco is going to scrap the $20 million dollar Project 28 along the Southern arizona border with Mexico because, as the GAO concluded almost two months ago, it “did not fully meet user needs and the project’s design will not be used as the basis for future” developments.

Problem is, future developments likely are going to be more of the same.  The corporatist logic here is obvious. The government is scrapping the project, not the contract.  Bushco no longer care (as if they ever did) about the effectiveness of border enforcement. All they do care about is continuing the neoliberal plan of outsourcing government programs and services related to immigration control, in this case to Boeing.  Boeing’s indefinite use contract with the government allows it to continue creating failed prototypes at taxpayer expense, on and on, and on.

All the while, DHS Secretary Chertoff has fast tracked the construction of the physical fence along the border, part of the same larger Boeing project.  This project will also fast track moneys into boeing coffers regardless of the idiocy of these plans.  At least the virtual fence didn’t imprison Tohono O’odham indians to a netherland between Mexico and the continental United States. This is what the fence is going to do within a 75 mile stretch also along the Arizona border. It will divide Tohono O’odham territory leaving about 1,400 tribespersons south of the fence and separated from 14,000 others as as from medical and health services and jobs.  It will also dive the University of Texas-Brownsville campus that leaves several buildings and agencies in a no man’s land separated from the continental united states.

The physical fence also promises to cut right through 265 year old land grant tracts of land owned by families which received original land grants from Spain and Mexico.  In addition to the symbolic violence of DHS’s decisions to move forward with the physical fence given the resistance of land grant families, it is also doing so in violation of international law, and federal and state statutes related to the the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and about 34 other federal environment protection laws.

Again, the cynicism of the government’s behavior here really cannot be over-emphasized. They know full well tat these projects will fail, and they know full well that people of color along the border are being bulldozed by this extra-legal process of DHS decision making.  And once again, they just don’t care.

 

The Bush-Chertoff Coup at the Mexican Border

When Congress enacted the Real ID Act in 2005, few people appreciated just how radical a piece of legislation this was. Yes, it introduced a drivers’ license data base that many folks astutely compare to a national ID card.  It also threatens to create havoc on the roadways by denying undocumented immigrant drivers a chance to get a drivers license and insurance which comes in handy in case of a car wreck.  Real ID also incongruously included provisions that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over immigration matters, which creates a damning tilt toward unfettered executive powers over immigrants.  

I thought all this qualified Real ID as one whopping, dangerous piece of law.  But just today,  additional horrors of Real ID were revealed: a coup at the border.

It was announced that section 102 of the Real ID Act provides the justification DHS Secry Chertoff says he needs for DHS to waive about 36 existing (mostly environmental and land management) laws enacted by Congress that pertain to DHS efforts to construct a border fence (18 foot steel and concrete) along the US-Mexico border from California to Texas.

As of today, the rule of law, and separation of powers no longer apply to the DHS’s SBInet efforts to construct a border industrial complex.  The rule of law would take too long, Chertoff suggested today,  and would slow efforts to stop “illegal immigration,” an occurrence ongoing since the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo, and regulated since the 1924 creation of the US border patrol.  According to Chertoff, “Criminal activity at the border does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.”

As reported in the Earth Times, Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife laments:

“Thanks to this action by the Bush administration, the border is in a sense more lawless now than when Americans first started moving west….”Laws ensuring clean water for us and our children — dismissed. Laws protecting wildlife, land, rivers, streams and places of cultural significance — just a bother to the Bush administration. Laws giving American citizens a voice in the process — gone. Clearly this is out of control.” 

How to make sense of the border coup?  I suggest considering the following: 1) the clock is ticking on an Administration whose border control policies have sucked as much as its other failed neo-con policies . 2) Abiding the rule of law is time consuming.  3) Bush’s unitary executive power theory suggests he need not so limit himself to the rule of law;  4) Bush business cronies at Boeing, the recipient of the $67 million contract to build the failure of a virtual fence project, also provides the steel for the physical fence, and along with several other SBInet firms, Boeing manages, oversees (itself a shameless contradiction) and consults on the construction of the physical border fence and other SBInet activities.  Getting the fence in the ground before the next Administration takes over is the surest way to avoid cancellation of this projected $49 billion fence boondoggle.

Who wins?   Boeing and other Bush corporate cronies (SBInet firms) and remaining neo-cons who still wrongly insist 9/11 hijackers crossed the border. 

Who loses?  all law abiding citizens; all people who believe in the constitution; all border residents, particularly land owners of mostly modest means; all immigrants

In addition to all adherents of the rule of law, the most immediate losers here include all the American people who collectively are proprietors of the national and state park lands, and wildlife preserves (including the San Pedro River in Arizona) that are going to be destroyed by the fence. In addition,  DHS is forcibly removing individual middle class and poor families who own property along the targeted path of the coming fence.  The govt. has already sued more than 50 property owners in South Texas to gain access to the land.  Now, DHS no longer need wait out such nuisances as damage assessments, court hearings and other due process entanglements.  

Testing Obama on Boeing’s Border Folly

How quick will it take the next administration to undo the doctrinaire free market ideology of Bush & Co.?
Under a McCain administration, it is likely to take 100 years, at least.

Under Obama? A good question. During last week’s debate in Austin, his responses (along with Clinton’s) to the immigration questions seemed unsettlingly sympathetic to using technology as a palliative for border control woes.

The problem is that border control technologies– such as the virtual fence–are a product of military contractors who are privatizing the border just as they have privatized war in iraq.

Further, a post by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation suggests Obama is not opposed to continuing the sort of private security force that Blackwater is angling to provide at the border, perhaps headquartered near San Diego.

And, today’s headline in the Washington Post about delaying the border’s “virtual fence,” provides an opportunity for Obama to think more about border contol issues.

The virtual fence folly is a prime example of free market ideology run amuck.

Today’s Washington Post reports that the “virtual fence” will be delayed 3 years because it “did not work as planned.” WaPo reports that DHS cites technical problems for its decision to remove control over Project 28 from Boeing, which requires the project to be redesigned.

Keeping in mind the corruption and fraud that has seeped into many privatized DHS projects lately, things must really be bad down there with Project 28, just south of Tucson, for DHS to reassert its control over Boeing.

For some background, consider a Wall Street Journal report last August:

Boeing Co. has changed the management of an electronic-surveillance project along the U.S.-Mexican border after falling more than two months behind schedule, marking the complications involved in setting up a new generation of border security.

The project, part of a larger Department of Homeland Security program called SBInet, is a critical link in the plan to use technology to monitor the borders for illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possible terrorists. Towers set up along a stretch of the border near Nogales, Ariz., are supposed to use motion sensors, cameras and radar to keep track of wide areas. According to the government, Boeing has had trouble getting the different components to work together without glitches.

The government’s plans for monitoring as much as 6,000 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders hinge on towers such as these working properly. If they prove ineffective, officials could be forced to spend billions of dollars for more traditional security measures, such as fences and more officers. The Homeland Security Department currently estimates that the virtual fence will cost about $8 billion through 2013, although the agency’s inspector general wrote last November that the cost could balloon to $30 billion.

This is the second delay for a relatively new project (the first was announced last June), launched after Boeing was awarded the government contract, September 2006. To et the contract, Boeing was supposed to have answered questions about the very real problems it has faced since the day after the ontract was awarded.

Project 28 (the pilot project), now delayed 3 years, was initially supposed to have been completed by mid June ’07. A spring ’07 GAO report on the virtual fence predicted the delays, reporting both expected and unexpected problems with implementing the virtual fence. According to the GAO, “virtual fence” cameras can’t tell the difference between immigrants and the rain, and couldn’t detect anything more than 5 kms away, which violates the Boeing contract.

Problems for border security and the taxpayer, nonetheless amount to a boondoggle for Boeing, particularly given Boeing’s “indefinite delivery” contract. Tax revenues fuel an over-bloated DHS budget, which then outsources its government responsibilities for homeland security, to such military contractors as Boeing. Delays and (temporary) loss of control over Project 28 don’t interfere with the Boeing award.

No such thing as failure in this privatized system. Consider the following investigation by Joseph Richey of the Nation Institute,

Since Boeing won the contract last year, the estimated cost of securing the southwest border has gone from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8 billion just a few months later. When Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter asked SBInet Director Giddens for the real costs at a February 2007 hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Giddens replied: “I wish I could answer that with greater clarity.”

At the same Congressional hearings, Boeing vice president and SBInet program manager, Jerry McElwee, took heat from Congressman William Lacy Clay who demanded information about the ballooning costs and the extension of the contract period. “You bid on these contracts and then you come back and say, ‘Oh we need more time. It costs more than twice as much.’ Are you gaming the taxpayers here? Or gaming DHS?” the Missouri Democrat asked.

DHS’s own inspector general, Richard Skinner, says that the Boeing contract is in the “high-risk” category for waste and abuse because of its scope, its dollar value, and “the vulnerabilities stemming from the lack of acquisition management capacity.”

Indeed, nothing could be better for business at Boeing than a 3 year delay. More government revenues and profits, rather than more oversight and accountability. And as Richey, shows, Congress, sadly, was aware of and did nothing about the fleecing, which goes to show how privatization ideologies are shared by Democrats as well as Republicans.

So, the question for Obama, assuming he becomes the nominee, regarding his commitment to deprivatize America, is whether he would terminate the Boeing contract, and other similar ones that now frame immigration control policy. Further, as president, would he overhaul the hollowed out DHS that seems to favor tis way of conducting business?

“Yes We Can” presumes the unprivatizing of America, which ought to start at our borders with the virtual fence.


Washington Post, “Virtual Fence’ Along Border To Be Delayed”

Accenture Distorts Reality about Real ID (revised)

In today’s Baltimore Sun (2/14/08), two letters to the editor appear which challenge my Sun column of 2/7/08, “Making Real ID Real.” Hey, I’m glad to see folks reading the column and I enjoy a lively debate But, the letters make misleading claims about an important issue dealing with immigrants and immigration control, so I respond below.

RE: the first letter, Accenture’s PR machine whipped off a quick letter to the editor to suggest my column was “factually inaccurate.” The pr machine’s response manipulates what the column says and is misleading (surprise!).

Here’s everything I wrote about Accenture…

“It is interesting to note who profits from the hype surrounding programs such as Real ID. Security management companies whose lobbyists are former Department of Homeland Security officials have a clear upper hand when it comes to getting contracts and lobbying the government for more outsourcing opportunities.

Such security management leaders as Accenture Ltd., Digimarc Corp., KPMG’s BearingPoint and Unisys have profited from the increasing “securitization” of immigration control and driver’s licenses. In 2004, Accenture received a $10 billion DHS contract for the US-VISIT program, a border control system, and the company is a leading contender for Real ID contracts to privatize state motor vehicle departments.

Accenture and the others have also profited from the “virtual fence” that socially controls U.S.-Mexico border crossers by tracking them long after they cross. And according to Washington Technology, these companies “are tracking opportunities in state motor vehicle IT system upgrades worth about $500 million to $700 million in the next two years.”

This is the Accenture response,

“In his column “Making ‘Real ID’ real” (Opinion • Commentary, Feb. 7), Robert Koulish makes a reference to Accenture that merits correcting.
Mr. Koulish’s claim that “Accenture and the others have also profited from the ‘virtual fence’ that socially controls U.S.-Mexico border crossers by tracking them long after they cross” is factually inaccurate.
Accenture has never been involved with any government program that tracks visitors after they enter the country.
However, by establishing minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, governments can help reduce counterfeiting and fraud.
This can help make driver’s licenses a more secure and trusted identity credential – an outcome that will benefit all Maryland and U.S. citizens.
Peter Soh Reston, Va. The writer is director of media relations for Accenture.”

Three important points here:

First point: According to Soh, “Mr. Koulish’s claim that Accenture and the others have also profited from the ‘virtual fence’ that socially controls U.S.-Mexico border crossers by tracking them long after they cross” is factually inaccurate.”

So, do they profit? Yes. Big Time. Accenture has had banner years since contracting with DHS. They reported revenues of $19.7 billion in 2007, and according to Wikipedia, “is one of the largest computer services and software companies on the Fortune Global 500 list.”

Second, does the virtual fence socially control US border crossers long after they cross? Yes, conceptually and when operationing. Accenture is integral to the virtual fence, US-Visit and Real ID. These are integrated programs that are intended to be part of a more comprehensive immigration control industrial complex that socially control immigrants and citizens inside this country.

Third, is Accenture involved with any government program that tracks visitors after they enter the country?
Perhaps we can wordsmith over what Accenture is saying here, but I take it to mean that US-VISIT, the virtual fence and Real ID, all of which involves Accenture does not track visitors (tourists? temporary workers? students?), and this is flat out wrong. The linkages among these to-be integrated programs won’t function without tracking capabilities.

Given Accenture’s role, its efforts to deny that it is involved in tracking people are manipulative and misleading. Hey look at it this way. Accenture has everything to do with tracking. I just googled the words ‘accenture’ and ‘tracking’ and came up with 414,000 hits. Seems silly to deny their role.

Any validity at all to Accenture’s response? Only if accenture were to concede their own failure to implement US VISIT (see GAO Rpt 06-318T). Perhaps they have some work to do to be effective trackers and social controllers of immigrants and citizens, but their DHS contracts demand a good faith effort.

Consider that the virtual fence proposes to monitor people as they enter and as they exit. The point is to get to people who fail to exit (visa overstays), to find them, apprehend them and remove or fine them.

Next, Real ID will play an integral role in the virtual fence concept. It will create a national database that registers the immigration status and other personal info of every individual who applies for a drivers’ license. Given DHS Secry. Chertoff, has stated that this information will go to federal immigration authorities, it doesnt take much to assume the data Accenture will gather and control, will be enlisted in efforts to “socially control() U.S.-Mexico border crossers by tracking them long after they cross”

Also consider that Accenture has also been a leading advocate of the use of RFIDS, which by design, tracks and monitors people and products. In the commrcial sector, it does this to help advertisers keep close tabs on the likes and dislikes of consumers. When RFID technology is used to further public policy objectives, like working with the DHS and ICE, the result is the tracking and social control of people in this country. let me know if you can think of any other purpose?

Next, is a letter from Brian Zimmer, president of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License.

Zimmer says, “In his column “Making ‘Real ID’ real” (Opinion • Commentary, Feb. 7), Robert Koulish ignores the increased personal privacy protections incorporated in the Real ID regulations recently issued by the federal government.”

I believe Zimmer doesn’t take into account existing accounts of these new references to privacy. If he did, he would agree they are superficial and inadequate.

According to Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program, of the final regs., “But the close, issue-by-issue analysis of the regulations we carried out for this scorecard reveals that Real ID’s problems remain unresolved.”

And,

Sophia Cope, staff attorney from the Center for American Progress, similarly says that the final regulations, “fail() to acknowledge that the REAL ID Act seriously threatens privacy and civil liberties on a national scale.”

“If run by a private organization, as is the current commercial driver’s license database, federal privacy and security laws may not apply, nor would the much-touted, though still weak, Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which only regulates how state motor vehicle departments disclose personal data to government agencies and commercial entities.”
Cope continues, “Thus no robust legal framework exists to protect the personal information that would be held in the centralized ID system envisioned by DHS from misuse by government and business. Allegedly, the Department of Transportation and other federal agencies already regularly access the privately managed commercial driver’s license database with virtually no oversight.”

So in closing here, a close analysis of the final regulations and a broader understanding of Real ID make a compelling case that privacy concerns remain a big worry for Real ID.

Making ‘Real ID’ real

by Robert Koulish
Februry 7, 2008

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to cooperate with the Bush administration on Real ID is a mistake.

The decision turns clerks at Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration into immigration officers, forcing them to ask prospective drivers about their immigration status and then assess the validity of documents – a troublesome chore even for well-trained immigration officers.

Moreover, Real ID will push illegal immigrants further into the shadows, where they will be deterred from reporting crimes to police or using emergency rooms. Because those who drive will not have a license or liability insurance, the risk for all drivers will likely increase.

Although anyone who fails to carry a Real ID will find it difficult to function in society, most “suspects” under the program will be nonwhite. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, “There would be intense scrutiny of and discrimination against individuals who chose not to carry the national identification card and those who ‘look foreign.'”

Although the Bush administration labels opponents of Real ID as anti-security, the program likely will lessen security by making databases of personal information accessible to third parties and vulnerable to data theft. Further, the underfunded federal mandate of Real ID will force Maryland to divert millions of dollars from the state’s starved homeland security budget, diminishing homeland security preparedness.

It is interesting to note who profits from the hype surrounding programs such as Real ID. Security management companies whose lobbyists are former Department of Homeland Security officials have a clear upper hand when it comes to getting contracts and lobbying the government for more outsourcing opportunities.

Such security management leaders as Accenture Ltd., Digimarc Corp., KPMG’s BearingPoint and Unisys have profited from the increasing “securitization” of immigration control and driver’s licenses. In 2004, Accenture received a $10 billion DHS contract for the US-VISIT program, a border control system, and the company is a leading contender for Real ID contracts to privatize state motor vehicle departments.

Accenture and the others have also profited from the “virtual fence” that socially controls U.S.-Mexico border crossers by tracking them long after they cross. And according to Washington Technology, these companies “are tracking opportunities in state motor vehicle IT system upgrades worth about $500 million to $700 million in the next two years.”

For each program, these companies would scan passports and visas into a massive database of information, which the Center for Digital Democracy reports would consist of Social Security numbers, phone numbers, residence addresses and even medical histories – all without privacy protections. The security management industry is not responsible for lost or inaccurate data, or information that ends up in the hands of unsavory third parties. It is not bound by the dictates of the Freedom of Information Act, and nothing in the law prevents it or the MVA from sharing personal data with other government agencies, private employers or insurance companies.

Further, Real ID reduces judicial authority to review important immigration-removal decisions. This unaccountable mess also violates the spirit of the Privacy Act of 1974, which requires that individuals must have control over their personal information. Regrettably, DHS’ final regulations for Real ID, issued Jan. 11, fail to make the Privacy Act binding on this program.

Once again, illegal immigrants are the scapegoats. They have been driven off the road this time to advance a neoliberal political agenda bent on hollowing out government services and advancing Orwellian strategies of surveillance and control by private means and without judicial scrutiny.

Mr. O’Malley’s progressive vision for the state on other matters will be severely compromised by this wrongheaded decision about Real ID.

Robert Koulish, a political scientist and France-Merrick professor of service learning at Goucher College, writes often about immigration. His e-mail is rkoulish@goucher.edu, and his blog is https://koulflo.wordpress.com.
Copyright © 2008, The Baltimore Sun