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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed September 4th, 2018
    Roll Call Vote 272 Yea / 119 Nay
      house Committees
      House Committee on Homeland Security
    IntroducedJuly 19th, 2018

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What is it?

This bill would authorize the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program within the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) to address and reduce national security threats before they reach the U.S. through international sharing of biometric information.

It would charge the Secretary of Homeland Security with:

  • Working with the Secretary of State to identify appropriate representatives of foreign governments and heads of other federal agencies to facilitate the voluntary sharing of biometric and biographic information collected from foreign nationals for the purpose of identifying and screening those who may pose threats, terroristic or otherwise, to the U.S.,

  • Providing capabilities, including training and equipment, to partner countries to voluntarily collect biometric and biographic identification data from individuals to identify, prevent, detect, and interdict high-risk individuals identified as threats to the U.S. who may attempt to enter the U.S. using illicit pathways,

  • Providing capabilities, including training and equipment, to partner countries to compare foreign data against appropriate U.S. data in the following databases: the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database; FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database;  DOD’s Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS); DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT); and any other databases that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the heads of other federal departments and agencies, designates,

  • Ensuring biometric and biographic identification data collected pursuant to BITMAP is incorporated into appropriate United States Government databases, and

  • Ensuring that BITMAP operations include participation from relevant components of DHS and other federal agencies, as appropriate

Before BITMAP operations can be carried out in new foreign countries, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and State would be required to enter into an an agreement or arrangement with the government of the country outlining the operations to be carried out in the new partner country. No later than 60 days before such an agreement is entered into force, the Secretary of Homeland Security would be required to provide the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate with copies of the agreement.

On an annual basis, the Secretary of Homeland Security would submit a report on BITMAP’s effectiveness in enhancing national security, border security, and counterterrorism operations to the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate.

Impact

Foreign nationals; foreign law enforcement; Department of Homeland Security; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Homeland Security Act of 2002; and the BITMAP Program.

Cost

The CBO estimates that since this bill would mostly codify programs that already exist at DHS, enacting it would not significantly affect DHS spending.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced this bill to fully authorize BITMAP and help better identify national security threats:

“As terror threats evolve over time, our adversaries become more agile, desperate to avoid detection and sneak into our country. One of the ways they try to come here is through the exploitation of illicit pathways in South and Central America. To combat this threat, we must leverage our international partnerships and use the most advanced technology to our advantage. ICE’s BITMAP program shares valuable data from law enforcement officers in participating countries with our own law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Simply put, this bill will help stop dangerous individuals who want to bring harm to the American people from entering the country. I look forward to this bill advancing to the House floor for a vote and continuing the Committee’s efforts to better secure the homeland.”

In remarks at the Connect ID conference in Washington, D.C, Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s technology subcommittee, argued that biometric identification technologies could be a key tool for not only bolstering immigration security, but also for negotiating the tumultuous political landscape around President Trump’s proposed border wall. He also noted that biometric security technology that can weed out “bad cargo” of humans, drugs, and weapons while also being “more cost-effective than a border wall.”

The Center for Immigration Studies, commenting on the BITMAP program, says:

“BITMAP is an excellent concept, and the beauty of it is that both sides benefit: Once the data is transmitted, it will remain within the repositories of relevant U.S. government agencies for future reference, while at the same time the foreign government is receiving further input in the form of feedback about the individuals whose data is forwarded.”

Congressional testimony on the use of biometric information by government agencies and private companies to identify people has revealed some unease with the concept. Former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called on the FBI and Facebook to change the way they use facial recognition, arguing that “we have a fundamental right to control our private information.”

This legislation passed the House Homeland Security Committee unanimously and currently has the support of 12 cosponsors of this bill, including 11 Republicans and one Democrat.


Of NoteBITMAP is a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Homeland Security Investigations (ICE/HSI)-led program established in 2011 by then-President Obama. Under this program, partner countries’ law enforcement officers collect and share biometric and biographic data on special interest individuals to identify potential threats who use illicit passages to get into the United States. Since its inception, BITMAP has identified several hundred known or suspected terrorists, as well as criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, murders, child predators, and members of dangerous gangs such as MS-13.

Under the BITMAP program, DHS currently provides training and equipment to build partner countries’ capacities to collect biometric and biographic data ons suspect individuals, which they then share with U.S. agencies. This information is then used to provide U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies with information on foreign partners’ law enforcement and border encounters with persons of interest who may pose a threat to national security.

According to LexisNexis Risk Solutions, the evolving threats of terrorism, drug abuse and human trafficking will be the top three challenges impacting US law enforcement in 2018 and beyond. LexisNexis argues, “while these problems are familiar, new techniques and technologies used by perpetrators will require agencies to share data, employ new intelligence technologies and work together more closely to combat the threats effectively.”

Despite some debate about the extent to which biometric identification technology, facial recognition, and similar technologies are being used by both the public and private sectors, there are no existing U.S. laws limiting the use of these technologies in either the public or private sector. The FBI and DHS both have enormous databases of biometric identifiers, and most Americans are already in a facial recognition database of some sort.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStock.com / metamorworks)

AKA

Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program Authorization Act of 2018

Official Title

To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish in the Department of Homeland Security the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program, and for other purposes.

    Let's hope the US government will not use it against it's own citizens, while using it to keep us safer from known terrorist.
    Like (28)
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    Regardless of how people feel about Snowden he revealed that we can not trust the NSA and CIA to not spy on Americans. Why would we make matters worse and have them potentially give other countries our metadata, that they are of course not collecting, to other countries to use? Vote no. Until they can demonstrate good and trustworthy behavior defined under their charter or we reform them the answer should be no.
    Like (81)
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    How exactly would the U.S. government and foreign governments determine who may pose a risk? Personal information like biometric data should not be shared without some sort of probable cause or due process. This is a privacy issue.
    Like (55)
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    I think this is too big a invasion of privacy with too little restraint. I’m not sure we are ready for this.
    Like (31)
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    Do we have any partners left after Trump bashing them?
    Like (21)
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    The government would misuse such data.
    Like (18)
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    This isn’t about security this is about controlling populations. We don’t want to live under an authoritarian regime.
    Like (14)
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    Should we? Maybe. Do any of our allies trust us anymore with intelligence information or technology purporting to be highly reliable when detecting terrorists? No. I don’t think anyone should deal with the US until we can prove we are responsible, reliable and actually possess some type of ethical intelligence strategy going forward rather than president who will most likely be impeached or attempt a coup.
    Like (12)
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    Terrorism is the latest government excuse to curtail liberty. Government is much more dangerous than terrorism, don't fall for il.
    Like (9)
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    Well, the decision reached by the House clearly indicates where our right to privacy is heading - down the toilet! I can’t say, though, that I’m surprised by this result.
    Like (7)
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    The ramifications of this bill are still unclear. Privacy issues must be worked out first.
    Like (7)
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    Assuming the current administration has not burned all our partbers, yes we should share and coordinate to prevent terrorism.
    Like (6)
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    No need to collect or share biometric info. Use common sense profiling instead. Do not shut out the lessons that 9-11-01 has taught us. Recognize the Sharia elephant in the room. Acknowledge its hatred, bigotry, violence and deadly intolerance. Deal with it swiftly, justly and harshly.
    Like (5)
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    The U.S. government has an established track record of mismanaging citizen’s private information. This bill sounds like a bad idea all around.
    Like (5)
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    One day, the left will get control of our government again. All we need to know is how they used the power and wealth of our government to impose their will on the rest of us: the IRS scandal; Obamacare; the Iran nuclear deal; campaign finance “reform”; net “neutrality”; tax increases; over regulation; back doors to our phones and computers; vilification of people who are different. They will use this against too.
    Like (5)
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    Leave us alone.
    Like (5)
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    Privacy is a human right
    Like (5)
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    Biometrics are way too invasive. We’ve already been stripped unwillingly and unknowingly of our private info they social media. What is left?
    Like (5)
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    Heck no.. surveillance is already way too prolific.. we need to not sacrifice our freedom for safety.
    Like (4)
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    Don’t, just... don’t
    Like (4)
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