Harper’s Border Deal Expands the National Security State February 1, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Civil Liberties.
Tags: border security, Canada, canada governent, canada-us, Civil Rights, emily gilbert, ibet, national security, orwellian, privacy, roger hollander, shiprider, Stephen Harper, us canada border
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The Canada-U.S. “Beyond the Border” agreement announced in December 2011 promotes bilateral “friendship, sharing, and collaboration.” These are excellent values. They are instilled in kindergarten. But if Canada wants to build an adult relationship with the United States, we need to openly address issues of civil rights, due process and accountability.
Nowhere is this more the case than with respect to the dramatic changes proposed for North American security. Numerous privacy concerns have already been raised with respect to increased data-gathering and cross-border information sharing. Very little attention, however, has yet been directed to the worrisome proposals for more integrated cross-border law enforcement.
Under the Beyond the Border agreement, the Shiprider pilot program will be standardized. Shiprider is an extension of Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs) which enable bilateral information and intelligence-sharing across the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Office of Border Patrol, the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The main target of IBETs has been organized crime such as drug smuggling, contraband weapons and human trafficking.
The Shiprider program will extend IBETs to shared waterways and seaways, and will also permit cross-border law enforcement. Designated RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers will jointly operate vessels on patrol, and will be authorized to enforce the law on either side of the border. The Harper government has also tabled legislation, Bill C-60: Keeping Canadians Safe (Protecting Borders) Act, that would bestow these designated officers with enforcement capabilities equivalent to the RCMP — anywhere in Canada!
It is clear, therefore, that these cross-border law enforcement arrangements are not just about information-sharing. They are about creating interoperable security practices and personnel. As such they raise troubling questions regarding accountability, due process and civil rights.
When and where does a cross-border initiative start and end? Who decides? Who has jurisdiction over the information that is gathered? Who is responsible if something goes wrong? How might national security concerns be used to sidestep the law with respect to these designated officials?
Another “Beyond the Border” pilot project, Next-Generation, also raises concerns with regards to its widening security mandate. Next-Generation officers will be located between ports of entry. Like the IBETs, the Next-Generation program will facilitate intelligence and information-sharing. They will also, like the Shiprider program, allow designated officers to enforce the law on either side of the border.
But Next-Generation will also expand the security mandate of these officers by drawing together organizations responsible for the defence of national security: the RCMP, Public Safety Canada, the Department of Justice Canada, the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Homeland Security. These are not just border agencies, but agencies mandated with the full weight of national security.
The “Beyond the Border” agreement will also bring Canada more closely in line with the extensive reach of the Department of Homeland Security. Criminal infractions can now be treated with the full force of threats to national security. But, for example, is the selling of contraband cigarettes a matter of national security? Are smugglers of prescription drugs on a par with terrorists?
As the title “Beyond the Border” suggests, the agreement is not just about efficient trade or border security. It is not about those kindergarten values of playing nicely together, sharing toys and secrets. This agreement is about deepening and extending the national security mandate across the two countries, well away from the border.
The public discussion about this border deal needs to grow up fast, in order to cut through the government’s infantilizing PR and face up to the ways that the Harper government is expanding the national security state, both in domestic policy and in our international relations.
Tags: biodiversity, biosphere, boreal forest, Canada, canada-us, carbon emissions, climate change, co2, environment, habitagt loss, habitia fragmentation, james hansen, keystone xl, roger hollander, tar sands, tar sands pipeline, watershed management
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The U.S. Department of State seems likely to approve a huge pipeline, known as Keystone XL to carry tar sands oil (about 830,000 barrels per day) to Texas refineries unless sufficient objections are raised. The scientific community needs to get involved in this fray now. If this project gains approval, it will become exceedingly difficult to control the tar sands monster. The environmental impacts of tar sands development include: irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment, reduced water quality, destruction of fragile pristine Boreal Forest and associated wetlands, aquatic and watershed mismanagement, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife particularly bird and Caribou migration, fish deformities and negative impacts on the human health in downstream communities. Although there are multiple objections to tar sands development and the pipeline, including destruction of the environment in Canada, and the likelihood of spills along the pipeline’s pathway, such objections, by themselves, are very unlikely to stop the project.
An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2). Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm, which is unsafe for life on earth. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels including tar sands are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize earth’s climate.
Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles.
Governments are acting as if they are oblivious to the fact that there is a limit on how much fossil fuel carbon we can put into the air. Fossil fuel carbon injected into the atmosphere will stay in surface reservoirs for millennia. We can extract a fraction of the excess CO2 via improved agricultural and forestry practices, but we cannot get back to a safe CO2 level if all coal is used without carbon capture or if unconventional fossil fuels, like tar sands are exploited.
A document describing the pipeline project is available here. Comments, due by 6 June, can be submitted here, or by e–mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Keystone XL EIS Project, P.O. Box 96503–98500, Washington, DC 20090–6503 or fax to 202–269–0098.
I am submitting a comment that the analysis is flawed and insufficient, failing to account for important information regarding human–made climate change that is now available. I note that prior government targets for limiting human–made global warming are now known to be inadequate. Specifically, the target to limit global warming to 2oC, rather than being a safe “guardrail,” is actually a recipe for global climate disasters. I will include drafts of the following papers that I recently co–authored:
I will also comment that the tar sands pipeline project does not serve the national interest, because it will result in large adverse impacts, on the public and wildlife, by contributing substantially to climate change. These impacts must be evaluated before the project is considered further.
It is my impression and understanding that a large number of objections could have an effect and help achieve a more careful evaluation, possibly averting a huge mistake.
Dr. James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. He was the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change and writes here as a private citizen. Hansen is the author of “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.“