In a terrifying new twist to the federally mandated "Secure Communities" program -- which lets Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents run an alien check on anybody who passes through any sort of jail or prison -- the FBI appears to have been a driving force behind the mandate.
So why would the nation's top intelligence agency care about a bunch of petty border-hoppers? New documents (obtained the drawn-out, non-Lulzy way, through a Freedom of Information Act request by three legal orgs currently fighting Secure Communities in federal court) reveal the FBI's creepy, Big Brother-esque interests in the program.
In the correspondence, FBI officials call Secure Communities "simply the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the ... Next Generation Identification (NGI) initiative."
You can start freaking out now.
An excerpt from the creepily titled document "Deployment Outreach Deep Dive," between ICE, the FBI and CJIS (the board which oversees the FBI's criminal databases):
• Ultimately, [Law Enforcement Agency (LEA)] participation is inevitable because SC is simply the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI/CJIS' Next Generation Identification (NGI) initiative.
• SC is just one -- the first -- of these many additional information streams being
made available to assist LEAs at every level, to fully and accurately identify suspects in their custody.
• Instead of just flipping the switch in five years, signing on to SC now is an
opportunity for LEAs to see the future and become comfortable with it, before multiple-menu NGI comes on line.
Not only does this correspondance say worlds about the invasive nature of Secure Communities -- and prove, in writing, that the motivation behind mandating it across the country was not solely to deport violent criminals -- it suggests a future where no one, and nothing, is anonymous.
Just by living a modern lifestyle, we already opt in to a highly traceable existence: Our iPhones track where we've been (if we haven't already told the world via FourSquare), we splatter our private information all over the Internet (even though the most solid-seeming sites have proven very hackable) and the Obama-renewed PATRIOT Act takes care of pretty much all else.
Next Generation Identification would take our 21st-century lack of privacy a new level -- with iris scans, spy cams and other frighteningly hi-tech bio identifiers. Here's how it's pitched on the FBI's website:
The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation, and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment.
And now, a more paranoid explanation, courtesy of Jessica Karp from the National Day Laborers Organizing Network:
"NGI is ... a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but within the body itself. The FBI's biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever."
As for the current lawsuit against ICE, these documents are gold. Bridget Kessler, of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, says in today's press release:
"These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI's role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI's desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary."
Fascinating, if extremely concerning, stuff. Sort through the entire stack of FBI-ICE documents here. And read up on the local fight to obtain similar documents from L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca here.