Governments are building a "global registration and surveillance infrastructure"
in the US-led "war on terror", civil liberty groups warned yesterday.
The aim is to monitor the movements and activities of entire populations in
what campaigners call "an unprecedented project of social control".
The warning came from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, including
the American Civil Liberties Union, and Statewatch, a UK-based bulletin which
tracks developments in the EU.
They point to the system whereby all visitors to the US are to be digitally photographed
and fingerprinted. The EU has agreed that member states must fingerprint all passport
holders by the end of 2007. The information will be held on databases.
National ID cards, they warn, will become a "globally interoperable biometric
passport". The setting up of airlines' passenger name records (PNRs) could
include more than 60 different kinds of information, including meal choices which
could reveal personal, religious or ethnic affiliations.
The US and EU governments are expanding legal powers to eavesdrop and to store
the product of intercepted personal communications, the groups warn.
They also point to an agreement between Europol - the EU's incipient police
headquarters - and the US giving what they say will be an unlimited number of
American agencies access to sensitive information on the race, political opinions,
religious beliefs, health and sexual life of individuals.
The groups point to increasingly close cooperation between national police,
security, intelligence, and military establishments.
To achieve their ends, they say, governments have suspended judicial oversight
over law enforcement agents and public officials, concentrated unprecedented
power in the hands of the executive arm of government, and rolled back criminal
law and due process protections that balance the rights of individuals against
the power of the state.
These initiatives, say the civil liberty groups, are not effective in identifying