President Bush at the White House
NEW YORK – Two new directives signed by President Bush establish sweeping authority for federal executive departments and agencies to establish a coordinated “framework” to collect and retain biometric data on U.S. citizens identified as “known and suspected terrorists,” without requiring public or congressional disclosure of the procedures.
Although the directives run over 1,700 words in length, Congress is not mentioned once, nor is there any specification of how the coordinated “framework” will be disclosed to the public.
WND contacted the White House press office for comment but received no return call.
The directives also do not specify any procedures for citizens to challenge their inclusion in the biometric database or any resulting consequences, such as restricted travel or additional government surveillance.
Biometric technologies use electronic means to capture individual-specific data on physical characteristics, including fingerprints, eye retina scanning, face recognition mapping and body imaging.
The contextual data that accompanies biometric data includes information on date and place of birth, citizenship, current address and address history, current employment and employment history, current phone numbers and phone number history, use of government services and tax filings.
Other contextual data may include bank account and credit card histories, plus criminal database records on a local, state and federal level. The database also could include legal judgments or other public records documenting involvement in legal disputes, child custody records and marriage or divorce records.
The new orders, issued Thursday, are identified as National Security Presidential Directive 59, or NSPD 59, and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 24, or HSPD 24, and titled “Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security.” They instruct federal executive departments and agencies to use “mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis and sharing of biometric and associated biometric and contextual information” of individuals considered a national security risk.
In similar language, the presidential directives repeatedly stress that the coordinated data collection and storage procedures mandated across a wide range of federal bureaucratic structures will respect information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.
The directives, however, do not require the federal agencies collecting, sharing and storing biometric information on citizens to disclose to the American people or Congress their criteria for identifying targeted individuals or their data procedures.
The directives require the attorney general to provide legal policy guidance in coordination with the secretaries of state, defense, homeland security and the director of national intelligence, without reporting to Congress or the American people.
The directives also require the attorney general and the agency heads to “develop and implement mutually compatible guidelines for each respective agency for the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information, to the fullest extent practicable, lawful, and necessary to protect national security.”
The attorney general is given one year to implement the directives and report to the president through the assistant to the president for national security affairs, a position currently held by Stephen J. Hadley, and to the assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, currently Frances Townsend.
WND previously reported President Bush signed NSPD-51 and HSPD-20 on May 9, 2007, allowing the president to declare a “national emergency” and take over the direction of all federal state, local, territorial and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations, to continue functioning under the president’s directives, without specifically requiring the approval of Congress.