|Proposed anti-terror rules for travelers get personal
Washington Times 01/06/03: Frank J. Murray
Original Link: http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030104-557708.htm
The Justice Department yesterday published proposed anti-terrorism regulations that for the first time would require American citizens traveling abroad to disclose detailed personal information.
Under the new proposal, Americans on commercial air and sea travel would be required to fill out forms detailing their comings and goings.
Under the new regulations, the information would be sent electronically to the government to be matched against security databases.
"It's another way to enhance security for travelers," Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman Kimberly Weismann told the Associated Press.
The rule published yesterday would not apply to domestic flights.
INS spokesman Chris Bentley said the portion involving American citizens and resident aliens with green cards will not take effect until a final rule is imposed after a 30-day comment period.
But he said the rule was put in force on an interim basis Wednesday, requiring details on all temporary foreign visitors such as tourists, students or business travelers.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been critical of much of the administration's terrorism information-gathering initiatives, said these rules should not encroach on people's privacy.
"We don't see a huge downside," spokeswoman Emily Whitfield told the Associated Press.
Congress ordered the changes in legislation that was signed into law by President Bush last May. The legislation also mandated that the rules concerning the issuance of visas to visitors and students coming to the United States be tightened, as well as that additional Border Patrol officers be hired.
The proposal requires all passengers arriving or departing, as well as crew members, to provide information such as name, date of birth, citizenship, sex, passport number and country of issuance, country of residence, U.S. visa number and other details of its issuance, address while in the United States, and, where it applies, alien registration number.
All commercial airlines, cargo flights, cruise ships and other vessels carrying crew or passengers would be affected, with the exception of most ferry boats. Private transportation is not affected, nor are commercial buses or trains.
An INS press statement announcing the proposed rule on Tuesday said a new law "requires the submission of Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) on all temporary foreign visitors." But the regulation published yesterday by the Justice Department specifically proposed to include U.S. citizens and others who are now exempt.
One civil liberties group said it would file comments after studying the unexpected proposal.
"We're going to ask some hard questions on the privacy implications, on who is included and how their privacy interests will be respected," said Mihir Kshirsagar of the Washington-based Electronic Information Privacy Center, which is often a harsh critic of federal information-gathering.
Start-up costs for businesses to comply with the proposal are estimated at $166 million, and either the Justice Department or State Department could request more data later.
Information on millions of travelers each year would be matched against "appropriate security databases" to spot undesirables trying to enter the country, and then used to confirm departures for travelers who were permitted temporary visits.
The INS Federal Register filing did not explain how tracking the comings and goings of American citizens aids "effective enforcement of the immigration laws," which is the rule's stated purpose.
"I wouldn't call it tracking travel," Mr. Bentley said. "We want to know who's coming in or who's seeking admission to the United States to make sure that the individuals coming are entitled to enter the United States."
In addition to ending the exemption for U.S. citizens, the rule would electronically help track arrivals in and departures from this country for all foreign travelers including those currently exempt enroute to and from Canada or the British Virgin Islands, as well as aircraft and ship crews.
Much of this information currently is supplied by noncitizens on the I-94 Arrival Form handed to an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer upon arrival in the United States. The INS said it would continue requiring paper forms at least for a trial period.
International airlines also confirm passport data of all passengers, including Americans. Arriving U.S. citizens have been required to fill out customs declarations but not INS paperwork.