STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Germany & US Integrate Air Travel Surveillance Programs
By Staff News & Analysis - April 17, 2010

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and German Interior Ministry State Secretary Klaus-Dieter Fritsche today signed a joint statement expressing their intent to integrate U.S. and German trusted traveler programs. "Integrating one of our biometric trusted traveler programs with Germany's will facilitate legitimate trade and travel between our two nations while allowing law enforcement to focus on the most serious security threats at points of entry to our country," said Deputy Secretary Lute. "This is another good step forward of our government-to-government cooperation. The joint program will make transatlantic air travel easier and make it more secure at the same time," said State Secretary Fritsche. Under this statement, the United States and Germany will develop processes for qualified citizens of either country to apply for both the United States' Global Entry program and Germany's Automated and Biometrics-Supported Border Controls (ABG) program, which each use biometrics to identify trusted travelers. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program allowing pre-approved members an alternative to regular passport processing lines – reducing average wait times by 70 percent, with more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry processed in less than five minutes. ABG serves a similar function for German citizens, and joining the two programs will make travel faster and more secure. – US Homeland Security press release

Dominant Social Theme: More steps taken to help out the weary traveler in an age of terrorism.

Free-Market Analysis: It all starts with 9/11. If one accepts – and we do – that there are a massive amount of unanswered questions about 9/11, then much of what flows from 9/11 – the creation over the past decade of embryonic police-states in Europe and America and the endless, horrible wars – is at least partially illegitimate. War and repression in the name of "security" are, in fact, always terrible from the standpoint of civil society, but their creation as a result of the mythos of 9/11 just makes it worse.

We're not prepared to say with any certainty what DID happen on 9/11. But we certainly know what many members of the 9/11 Commission have now acknowledged – that the current narrative was created from falsehoods provided by the entire spectrum of American officialdom, from the Pentagon, to the Bush administration, to the dozen or more separate intel agencies that was then enshrined as fact within the Commission report.

Right now it would seem that having Germany and America work together to facilitate the movement of trusted travelers is a good thing. Helping travelers who are not security threats to get from one place to another more quickly helps businesses and reduces the frustration of flying. But the 9/11 Commission has admitted that its conclusions were based on official falsehoods. Thus, we have the spectacle of trusted traveler programs being built on security regimes that may not be adequately justified in the first place. Not only that, but the wars that America has embarked upon in retaliation for 9/11 have certainly polarized the Muslim community and heated up anti-Western "terrorist" rhetoric.

There is no getting away from the manner in which Western governments, in turning to violence in the aftermath of 9/11, may have helped create the very terrorism government officials say they are concerned about. Throughout the Western world, the result of this concern about terror has been the implementation of warrantless wiretapping, continual restrictions on travel, various terrorist "enemies" lists and a general insistence by government intel apparatuses that every kind of intrusive, privacy invading measure be contemplated in the name of increased security.

One can surely envision the day when database linkages are more common and are utilized to identify individuals that are NOT trusted travelers. The idea of an international network identifying "security risks" is a mind-boggling concept. What about the hapless people who are placed on such a list inadvertently? Not only would they not be able to fly in their own country, but the mistaken placement on the wrong list might suddenly prevent them from flying elsewhere as well.

Taken altogether, the idea of Western nations linking disparate security databases to create both an over-class of "trusted" individuals and an underclass of people who are (by definition) untrustworthy, provides a further polarization of civil society. Inevitably, those who work for large corporations will be increasingly advantaged within this security ambit, as large corporations will have the clout to make sure their employees are insulated from increasingly invasive travel restrictions. Thus, such trusted traveler programs will provide increasing competitive advantages to certain business entities at the expense of others.

The West generally is in the grip of two trends. There is the liberating and truth-telling trend of the Internet. Then there is the increasingly authoritarian trend of Western democracies putting into place the most invasive spying technologies to regiment and harry their own citizens. We think the latter trend is partially aimed at controlling citizens in case economic times get even tougher and there is significant unrest.

But there are other reasons as well. The power elite that stands behind the West's current economic and political structure is obviously interested in expanding its global reach. Processes such as "trusted traveler" that cut across borders presage a growing global order of security privileges – empowering the "haves" and disenfranchising "have nots."

In the world of tomorrow, if the power elite has its way, Western societies will likely be fully mobilized to fight a war on terror that stems from an initial flawed analysis of what occurred on 9/11. It is our belief, however, that the very electronic technologies that can be used for authoritarian purposes can be utilized to support freedom and free-markets as well.

There is a struggle going on between those who value classical liberalism and civil society and those who wish to control society, and consolidate its wealth and power for their own ends – using all the tools at hand including domestic spying and serial wars. Neither side will win this struggle for control, for it is old as time. But the goals of the elite, as enunciated in such programs as trusted traveler are increasingly obvious.

After Thoughts

Such programs as trusted traveler seem innocent enough. But the reality, if these programs are extended to their logical conclusion, would be a two-tier society in which some are advantaged by the government and by virtue of their employment opportunities, while most are not. The idea is, essentially, to extend government security clearance to a privileged class while certainly leaving others out or, in the worst case stigmatizing them. It is an obvious methodology of control and an inevitable outcome of the modern – increasingly authoritarian – state.

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