US is pushing Europe to agree to automated large-scale sharing of biometric data

27 July 2022 | Washington is currently strong-arming individual European governments and the EU to agree to an automated International Biometric Information Sharing Agreement, This would create a vast computer-searchable database with biometric and biographic Information of all citizens of Europe, the US and a number of other countries.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is offering European governments access to its vast biometric databanks in exchange for these governments reciprocating. A document produced by the DHS, obtained by Statewatch, the citizens’ rights organization, shows what the USA is offering foreign states. It is pretty scary.

As Statewatch reports, the document, entitled ‘DHS International Biometric Information Sharing (IBIS) Program’ and with the sub-heading ‘Enhanced Biometric Security Partnership (EBSP)’ is effectively a sales pitch to potential “foreign partners”.

The document promises “a scalable, reliable, and rapid bilateral biometric and biographic information sharing capability to support border security and immigration vetting, It promises access to vast quantities of data held by the DHS, namely the IDENT/HART database, which, according to the document, is “the largest U.S. Government biometric database and the second largest biometric database in the world, containing over 270 million identities from over 40 U.S. agencies.”

Participating states would have the opportunity to submit biometrics to the DHS through “a secure encrypted gateway called the Secure Real Time Platform (SRTP)”. The document notes that this can be done “at high volumes (up to millions of transactions each year)”.

If the US side finds a match to these biometrics, the “DHS can immediately provide available and sharable associated biometric, biographic, derogatory, and other encounter information to the partners,” automatically, without any manual intervention. What “derogatory” refers to, will be explained later.

In exchange, US Homeland Security would gain the same kind of access to the databases of partner states:

“In turn, DHS may submit biometrics to IBIS partner countries to search against their biometric identity management systems in order for partner countries to provide DHS with sharable biographic, derogatory, and encounter information when a U.S. search matches their biometric records. This high-volume matching and data exchange is accomplished within minutes and is fully automated; match confirmation and supporting data is exchanged with no officer intervention.”

Members of the  European Parliament’s civil liberties committee had an informal meeting with the DHS on 29 June. Patrick Breyer, a member of the European Parliament from the Pirate Party revealed after the meeting:

“During the meeting, the new US “International Biometric Information Sharing (IBIS)” programme was presented. Threatening to reintroduce visa requirements, the USA wants to force EU Member States to grant access to biometric databases. Three EU member states and the United Kingdom are said to have already signed on to the programme. A representative of the EU Commission expressed criticism the USA was deliberately undermining European treaties through direct agreements with EU member states.”

The complaint in the last sentence seems to refer to a letter from Washington that according to Matthias Monroy, several EU member states have received through U.S. embassies in February, including France, Germany and Switzerland. It contains a threat that the Visa Waiver program for these countries would be cancelled, if they do not co-operate. The exact content is secret; freedom of information requests to the German Interior Ministry and the Chancellor’s Office failed, according to Monroy. Also the EU-Commission received such a letter and keeps it secret, because the US-side wants to keep it secret and the EU-Commission does not want to annoy Washington.

There is apparently a concern among European governments that U.S. access to biometric data in individual member states would allow access to EU databases through the back door.

According to Monroy the EU-Council issued a joint response to Washington, asking for more information, and has been holding talks with the U.S. government since the end of March.

“As much as possible”

MEP Breyer further reports from the meeting:

When asked exactly what data the US wants to tap into, the answer was: as much as possible. When asked what would happen at US borders if a traveller was known to the police in the EU, it was said that this would be decided by the US immigration officer on a case-by-case basis.”

Breyer urges the EU Commission and the German government to reject the demand of the US authorities and to not allow themselves to be blackmailed. He says that, if necessary, the visa waiver program must be terminated by Europe, because otherwise:

“Millions of innocent Europeans are listed in police databases and could be exposed to completely disproportionate reactions in the USA. The US lacks adequate data and fundamental rights protection. Providing personal data to the US exposes our citizens i.e. to the risk of arbitrary detention and false suspicion, with possible dire consequences, in the course of the US “war on terror”. We must protect our citizens from these practices.”

Any suspicion is enough

In the DHS- document obtained my Statewatch it says:

“IDENT contains over 1.1 billion ‘encounters,’ each of which consists of a distinct biometric collection by a U.S. government agency on a specific date and time for a particular purpose. Each of the approximately 270 million unique identities may have multiple ‘encounters’ associated with it, and DHS is able to share information on each separate encounter when there is a biometric match to the identity, consistent with policy and legal requirements.”

The document also explains what is meant by “derogatory information.” It is supposed to enable officials “…to quickly understand important contextual information without needing to reference or interpret U.S. law.” It may include:

  • • Known or suspected terrorists (KSTs)
    • Sexual offender removals
    • Some federal conviction information, where available
    • Criminal convictions for immigration and cross-border crimes
    • Immigration violations and revoked visas
    • Military records
    • Criminal history information pertaining to aliens removed from the U.S.
    • Known or suspected gang members
    • Known or suspected drug smugglers
    • Known or suspected human traffickers or human smugglers
    • Law enforcement community alerts

The document also refers to “Enhanced Capacity to Share Information Across Ministries and Agencies”; “Advanced Data Analysis”; and “Possible Integration with Other U.S. Programs” without elaborating the details.

Breyer is certainly right: If the EU or individual EU governments participate in this program, they put their citizens at peril. It would be enough that somebody puts a suspicion of something in your files for you to not be able to go to some countries any more. Or worse, the FBI oder border security might arrest you, if you enter the US.

If you are innocent, you will not have any idea about this risk, and you would not know what is going on, if your entry into another country should be refused. And there will probably be nothing practical you can do about it.

He is also right that European governments should just give up on the visa waiver program if needed. They have a lot to threaten the US with, too – or they would, if they dared. Currently US-Americans have a much easier time going to Europe for work or other non-touristic purposes than Europeans going to the US. If European governments would insist on full reciprocity, travel conditions for Americans would worsen considerably.

Agreement to this outrageous data sharing agreement can certainly not be allowed to happen in the way that the British government seems to have handled it, in secret.

No innocents in Brussels

If you have read my reporting on ID2020 you will be aware, that this fits into this program, which is aiming at: total surveillance of the world population. ID2020, sponsored by Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation (indirectly), Microsoft an others, and supported by the World Bank, aims at giving everybody on earth a biometric identity by 2030.

This does not simply mean that authorities can know for sure who you are. A globally standardized digital identity means  that they can let computer algorithms automatically collect anything that can be known about all people with a digital identity world-wide. Since the revelations of Edward Snowden we know that this is the ambition of the NSA and other US security organizations.

You will also have read on this blog, that the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations have funded the guidelines of the WHO for digital vaccination passes and the the security firm Thales called these precursors to a unified digital identity.

In Africa’s most populous country Nigeria, the World Bank paid for a National Identity system, which has recently been connected to all mobile phone contracts in the country.

In full conformity with the ID2020-plan the EU-Commission is pushing a plan since autumn 2020 to give all EU citizens a European digital identity which can “be used anywhere in Europe to do anything from paying taxes to renting a bike”.

The flip-side of course is that any information about any of your doings in Europe can accumulate in the file about you. I strongly suspect, though I have no prove, that the Vaccine Credential Initiative  VCI, run among others by Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle has helped the EU on their unusually quick way toward a pan-European vaccine passport and will continue helping on the way to a biometric identity for all Europeans. The goal of the initiative is to provide governments the code for a globally inter-operable vaccination pass, to be used and required for travel during Covid and beyond.

The new data sharing initiative from Washington, gives an idea of the purposes, which the biometric identities, that are being pushed through globally, will be used for.

German version

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