By Dana Gabriel
Global Research, June 12, 2012
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31379
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently unveiled a northern border strategy which seeks to address security concerns, while at the same time facilitating the flow of lawful travel and trade. The new plan promotes enhanced shared intelligence and joint law enforcement integration with Canada. It further builds on initiatives included in the Beyond the Border agreement and is part of ongoing efforts to lay the foundation for a North American security perimeter.
On June 5, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Northern Border Strategy (NBS) aimed at deterring and preventing terrorism, smuggling, trafficking and illegal immigration. In a press release she explained how the new plan, “provides a unifying framework for the Department’s work focused on enhancing the security and resiliency along our northern border while expediting legitimate travel and trade with Canada.” In order to accomplish these objectives, the NBS seeks to, “improve information sharing and analysis within DHS, as well as with key partners. The Department will also enhance coordination of U.S.-Canada joint interdictions and investigations, deploy technologies to aid joint security efforts along the border, and continue to update infrastructure.” The NBS parallels the National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy issued in January. It also supports goals outlined in the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan which focuses on addressing security threats early, facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs, integrating cross-border law enforcement, as well as improving infrastructure and cyber-security.
Another facet of the perimeter security deal is the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) action plan. It seeks greater regulatory alignment in the areas of agriculture and food, transportation, the environment, health, along with consumer products. In January, government representatives, as well as industry officials held regulatory meetings in Washington. The RCC has now published work plans in some of the specific areas noting that the rest of them will be posted when they are finalized. The whole process of regulatory reform has received more attention with President Barack Obama signing an Executive Order in early May, Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation. This will build on the work already underway by the RCC. In Canada, there are fears that deepening regulatory integration with the U.S. could weaken and erode any independent regulatory capacity, thus threatening its sovereignty. Further harmonization could result in Canada losing control over its ability to regulate food safety. This could also lead to a race to the bottom with respect to other regulatory standards.
As part of the Beyond the Border agreement, the U.S. and Canada are also working towards an integrated cargo security strategy. In May, they agreed to a new mutual recognition initiative whereby, “cargo shipped on passenger aircraft will now be screened only once for transportation security reasons, at the point of origin and will not need to be rescreened prior to upload on an aircraft in the other country.” Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy James Nealon proclaimed that, “Through this program, we will be able to move goods between U.S. and Canada faster, more efficiently, and most securely.” A Transport Canada backgrounder acknowledged that, “Air cargo is just the start. Canada and the U.S. are working together to strengthen co-ordination, co-operation and timely decision-making at the border for cargo shipped by sea or land with a view to increasing two-way trade, and reducing travel and commercial disruptions. When the Action Plan is fully implemented, the principle of ‘screened once, accepted twice’ is intended to apply to all modes of shipping cargo.” In order to keep trade flowing across the northern border, Canada is being pressured to further take on U.S. security priorities.
Last month, there were a series of U.S.-Canada joint consultation sessions with stakeholders regarding facilitating cross-border business. In addition, Public Safety Canada and the DHS issued the document, Considerations for United States-Canada Border Traffic Disruption Management. According to a news release it, “fulfils one of the first commitments under the Canada-U.S. Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.” The joint emergency guide, “outlines best practices and identifies critical issues to consider when developing or updating traffic management plans to ensure they are tailored to address regional requirements and individual border crossings.” Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews stated that, “This plan is the result of close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including government officials from the local, state, and provincial/territorial level, to manage the flow of traffic near the border during a disruption.” He went on to say, “Implementation of this guide will help maintain economic stability and ensure that priority traffic moves freely towards and away from the secure Canada-U.S. border during times of crisis.”
Through various initiatives, NAFTA partners are laying the foundation for a fully integrated North American security perimeter. In the advent of a terrorist attack, disaster or any other perceived threat to the continent, the U.S. could then execute control over the security perimeter. The global elite are not ones to let a serious crisis go to waste. Such a scenario would also provide the perfect cover needed to officially usher in a North American Union.
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: email@example.com. Visit his blog at www.beyourownleader.blogspot.com
Towards a North American Police State and Security Perimeter: US-Canada "Beyond the Border Agreement"
by Dana Gabriel
Global Research, May 14, 2012
Through the Beyond the Border agreement released in December 2011, the U.S. and Canada are quietly implementing initiatives that are working towards establishing a North American security perimeter. This includes expanding trusted traveler programs, as well as enhancing integrated law enforcement and information sharing cooperation which has raised many privacy concerns that have yet to be properly addressed.
There are questions surrounding the Conservative government’s Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act that also contains changes related to the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan. This includes ratifying and making the Shiprider a legal and permanent program which will require amending the Criminal Code, along with the RCMP and Customs Act. The joint initiative officially known as the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations first began as a pilot project. It allows RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers to operate vessels together and pursue criminals in the waters of both countries. The Council of Canadians reported that the NDP is demanding that the Shiprider policing program be taken out of budget implementation bill. Brian Masse, the NDP border critic is pushing for separate legislation and pointed out that, “it’s totally irresponsible to have it as part of the Budget Implementation Act.” He added, “There’s significant policing issues that really warrant a standalone bill. If it was so important that they did all the fanfare for it, why doesn’t it warrant its own process?” The proposed changes could have serious sovereignty implications with regards to accountability, due process and civil rights and therefore, need to be fully scrutinized.
The U.S. and Canada are also scheduled to deploy a land-based version of the Shiprider program at some point this summer. As part of the security perimeter deal, both countries will, “implement two Next-Generation pilot projects to create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” In September 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed plans that would allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. He announced that, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess, and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.” Holder went on to say, “In conjunction with the other provisions included in the Beyond the Border Initiative, such a move would enhance our cross-border efforts and advance our information-sharing abilities.” Both countries continue to expand the nature and scope of joint law enforcement operations, along with intelligence collection and sharing.
On April 20 of this year, the Red River Integrated Border Enforcement Team’s (IBET) joint intelligence office was opened in Altona, Manitoba. The facility will house representatives from the RCMP, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The IBET is a binational partnership designed to, “enhance border integrity and security along the shared Canada/U.S. border through identification, investigation and interdiction of persons, organizations and goods that threaten the national security of both countries or that are involved in organized criminal activity.” The specialized teams have been, “established in strategic regions to ensure more effective border enforcement capability between ports of entry, based on intelligence-led policing.” The new joint headquarters could serve as a model for other IBETs along the northern border.
On May 8, the CBP and the CBSA announced that, “they are delivering on key commitments under the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness—increasing benefits to NEXUS members, streamlining the NEXUS membership renewal process and launching a plan to increase NEXUS membership.” Under the NEXUS program, pre-screened travelers are granted expedited access across the border, by air, land or sea. Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews explained that, “The Border Action Plan is designed to speed up legitimate trade and travel, and improve security in North America by aligning the entry of people and goods at the perimeter while streamlining processes at the Canada-U.S. border. With these commitments to retain and increase NEXUS membership, Canada and the United States will increase efficiency to better focus their resources and examination efforts on travellers of high or unknown risk.” NEXUS is part of the process of implementing equivalent biometric standards across North America which could be used to restrict, track and trace our movements.
Last month, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, along with her provincial and territorial colleagues urged transparency and respect of Canadian privacy standards with regards to the perimeter security agreement. A joint resolution recommended that, “Any initiatives under the plan that collect personal information should also include appropriate redress and remedy mechanisms to review files for accuracy, correct inaccuracies and restrict disclosures to other countries; Parliament, provincial Privacy Commissioners and civil society should be engaged as initiatives under the plan take shape; Information about Canadians should be stored on Canadian soil whenever feasible or at least be subject to Canadian protection; and Any use of new surveillance technologies within Canada such as unmanned aerial vehicles must be subject to appropriate controls set out in a proper regulatory framework.” According to a self-imposed deadline, the U.S. and Canada are supposed to release privacy provisions associated with the perimeter security deal by May 30.
The perimeter agreement is also getting the attention of provincial and state leaders. B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Washington Governor Chris Gregoire have signed, “a joint letter to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper commending the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Action Plan and committing British Columbia and Washington to support and expedite federal commitments to improve the flow of people, goods and services across the border.” When the perimeter security deal was first released last year, Premier Clark issued a statement which welcomed the announcement. In addition, Washington’s state Legislature passed a joint memorial which also acknowledged its support. The backing of governments at all levels will further assist in implementing some of the Beyond the Border initiatives. Not to mention the fact that state and provincial regional integration is already being achieved in areas of trade, the environment and energy.
As the U.S.-Canada action plan implementation process continues, there still remains many concerns with the further integration and militarization of the northern border. This includes the loss of sovereignty and risks to privacy rights related to more cross-border sharing of personal information. While there have been online consultations surrounding the perimeter security agreement, there has yet to be any open public hearings or congressional and parliamentary debates.
Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at beyourownleader.blogspot.com*******
6 things to expect in new Canada-U.S. border deal
By Laura Payton, CBC News
07 December 2011
Canada and the U.S. are expected to announce a new agreement Wednesday to ease border congestion and better co-ordinate security between the two countries.
The agreement deals with three dozen or so elements of trade and security policy, but the finer points of how the measures will be implemented will be worked out over the next 12 to 18 months.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced the Beyond the Border talks last February, leading to a year of consultations and talks on trade and security. The two leaders, who last met in Hawaii last month as part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit, are meeting in Washington Wednesday.
The leaders have scheduled a press conference for sometime between 2:45 and 3 p.m. ET Wednesday. CBCnews.ca and CBC News Network will carry the press conference live.
Last August, the government released its consultation report, including comments from groups in favour of better co-operation and those worried about how much information Canada is prepared to share with U.S. authorities.
The report notes Canadians make almost 40 million trips to the U.S. every year and $1.6 billion in goods and services cross the border every day. Canada and the U.S. have more trade flowing across the Windsor-Detroit corridor than any other border crossing in the world.
The consultation report also hints at what Canadians can expect in the agreement.
Here are six things to expect from Wednesday’s announcement.
1. Better aligned regulations: Canada and the U.S. still have different regulations and standards on a lot of products, on everything from vehicles to food to consumer products. Those rules can slow trade or make it harder to make goods compatible, so much so that Harper and Obama set up a separate agreement on regulatory co-operation. Canada expects this agreement to lower costs to businesses and consumers.
2. Simplified, harmonized and streamlined border processes: It's a safe bet that the government will expand existing or introduce new pre-clearance programs like NEXUS, which has almost 500,000 participants. Low-risk people can get pre-approved for travel across the border. It's also possible the government will introduce more dedicated lanes at the border for trucks transporting goods. And a number of groups recommended pre-clearance programs to avoid border inspections for goods being shipped from one country to the other.
3. One entry and exit system: Canada and the U.S. are likely to integrate their entry and exit systems so they can more easily monitor which visitors are moving between countries. Canada will have a better idea of who leaves because they’ll know when travellers enter the U.S.
4. More information sharing: The government says enhanced information sharing will mean a more efficient border because as much screening as possible will be done away from the border. Canada's privacy commissioner urged the government must make sure any information is dealt with according to the privacy protections required under Canadian law. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association called for clear appeal procedures if the two countries move to shared watch lists like the no-fly list.
5. Expanded law enforcement co-operation programs: On a trip to Canada last fall, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano referred to the Shiprider program that lets law enforcement officials work together on shared waterways like the Great Lakes. It's likely there will be more initiatives like this one in the Beyond the Border deal.
6. Co-operation on protecting critical and cyber infrastructure: One of four pillars in the initial announcement focused on critical infrastructure and cyber security. Canada and the U.S. want to improve defences against cyber attacks and make transportation and communication network security stronger. Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who was on the team that negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, wrote in Policy Options this month to expect reinforcement against cyber threats to electrical grids, oil and gas pipelines, and the circuitry for everything from ATM transactions to air traffic control.
Point of View
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Border deal fuels concerns in Canada
Les Whittington, Ottawa Bureau
Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011
OTTAWA—Armed U.S. police officers will for the first time be allowed to operate in Canada along with the RCMP as part of far-reaching changes in Canadian-American border operations to be unveiled next week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.
The joint action plan to be announced at the White House will also break new ground by introducing exit-entry records that will track the movements of everyone who leaves the United States or Canada, with the information available to authorities in both countries.
In the months and years ahead, the deal between Ottawa and Washington will reshape security, travel and commercial arrangements at the border in a variety of profound ways — some of which have already raised alarms among Canadians.
The agreement, which has been the subject of confidential negotiations since last winter, is intended to reverse the economically damaging border tie-ups that have been growing since Sept. 11, 2001, while upgrading anti-crime and anti-terrorist security for both countries.
In contrast to the silence from Canadian negotiators, some U.S. officials have been open about what the new reality at the border will look like in the years ahead.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed last fall that the deal will authorize Canada and the U.S. to designate officers who can take part in police investigations on both sides of the border. The pilot project, Holder said, will improve the two countries’ ability to deal with the “unprecedented” threats along the border from terrorists, human smugglers, illegal firearms traffickers and drug dealers.
The model for the joint policing program is the Shiprider project, a three-year-old plan under which the RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard join forces and ride in each others’ vessels when patrolling boundary waters.
As part of the measures to improve security and streamline border practices, the Beyond the Border blueprint is also expected to include greatly increased information-sharing between Canada and the U.S., including the exit-entry plan.
This secretly devised shake-up of border operations has sparked widespread concerns.
“It’s contemptuous of Canadian citizenry to unveil a program in which we’ve had essentially no input,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
“This process has really been conducted behind closed doors. We’ve had no white papers, no reports — nothing that we could point to to say, ‘Here are the pros and cons, here are the drawbacks, here are the things we are considering,’ ” she said.
Vonn said the call for comment by Foreign Affairs earlier this year was not a real consultation, because it was based on the loosely worded framework agreement for a border overhaul signed by Harper and Obama in February — not the actual pact negotiated in the months since by officials from Ottawa and Washington.
Still, Foreign Affairs’ consultation exercise drew 1,000 individual responses, nearly half from Canadians who opposed further integration of cross-border law enforcement. Exchanging more personal data across the border also worried individuals who responded to the proposed Canada-U.S. deal.
“Their submissions generally questioned the need to share more information, and they sought assurance that any information sharing would be governed by Canadian privacy laws and that practices and procedures would respect the due process of law and Canada’s civil liberties,” according to a summary of the submissions compiled by Foreign Affairs.
These fears have been underscored by the federal privacy commissioner’s office, which told Foreign Affairs “the experiences of many Canadians in recent years at border crossings and airports highlight ongoing concerns over the protection of privacy rights while travelling.”
This has ranged from increased instances of individuals being delayed, detained or denied entry to the United States to “the tragic rendition of a Canadian citizen to torture in Syria,” the commission said, in a reference to Maher Arar. The Syrian-born Canadian citizen was held and tortured in Syria after being detained and sent there in 2002 by U.S. authorities. “Maher Arar, despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing in Canada, remains on the U.S. no fly list to this day,” the commission said in its June submission.
Assistant privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier said it’s crucial that the agreement include measures that give Canadians a recourse to challenge or correct personal information in border data bases that they believe to be erroneous.
“In any agreement, Canadian privacy protections and practices need to be protected,” Bernier added. “For instance, if there is a lower standard or higher standard of privacy at play, the higher standard has to win out. And in general, our sovereignty needs protection as this unfolds.”
Another question, she said, is whether the U.S. gives as high a priority to protecting personal information as Canada, which has a privacy watchdog reporting directly to Parliament. “The United States does not have a privacy commissioner,” she noted in an interview.
Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Ottawa-based Council of Canadians, said further integration of Canada and U.S. police operations is worrisome at a time when Canadians are still waiting for the establishment of recommended controls on information-sharing by Canadian police and intelligence agencies.
“The mechanism for holding the U.S. agents accountable is vague,” he said of the joint policing project included in the border deal. “It’s difficult to know how you would file a complaint, for example, against a U.S. agent and whether there is any accountability in that respect.”
Government officials point out that the joint policing plan will be modelled after the Shiprider cross-border marine policing plan, which requires a Canadian officer to be in charge when the team of mixed U.S. and Canadian police are operating in Canada, and vice-versa on the American side.
“The Prime Minister and the president did say that, of course, even though we would be cooperating in certain areas, our respective jurisdictions and laws would apply, whether that’s our law here, the Charter, etc., or Canada’s privacy rules,” said Andrew MacDougall, a spokesperson for Harper. “Each country would respect its standards on that front. You can look for greater cooperation while respecting our own national laws and standards.”
Besides security, the agreement expected to be announced in Washington on Dec. 7 will cover a wide range of measures on border infrastructure, harmonized product standards, intelligence-gathering and commercial transport.
In a major step to ease border congestion, U.S. officials say next week’s deal will authorize pilot projects in the Ontario cities of Sarnia and Fort Erie for pre-screening of cargo before it reaches nearby U.S. customs facilities. By inspecting shipments away from the border, officials hope that most of the pre-cleared trucks could move quickly through customs when crossing into the U.S.
The agreement is also expected to earmark $1 billion for investment in improved border posts, call for harmonized information requirements on both sides of the border and improve trusted travelers programs such as NEXUS.*******
The North American Union is Still On!
20 May 2011
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