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The final paper for my Information Technology class.

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  1. 1. Abstract. Just as computers have transformed life in innumerable ways, they have also had their impact on the enlargement, defense and security of national borders. In this paper I would like to explore the concept of the “invisible border” and survey the various technologies that correspond to border security in Europe. I have organized this survey in two parts, exploring the information-sharing technologies that the European Union has deployed in its airports, and the front-line technologies used by Spain at Europe’s external borders. I will also explore how these two areas of technology combine to form an integrated surveillance system for the purpose of excluding unwanted third-country nationals. Introduction. Twenty years and a month ago, the border between two political continents, the Berlin Wall, came down, ending the Cold War. The Berlin Wall was a visible border, built to reinforce ideological and economic differences. When it fell, citizens around the world celebrated the end of an oppressive regime. And yet since that momentous occasion borders continue to exist everywhere, supported by countless nations and the sources of gigantic budgets. What has changed about the border since 1989 is its visibility. No longer a concrete wall, the border has become an amorphous entity, lurking in air, water, and space. Technology is responsible for this transformation, making the border, most significantly, in data. The colloquialism “strength in numbers” applies to the European Union in more ways than one. As the EU has consolidated, its outlying borders have increased with each new member. In 1985 five European countries (France, West Germany, Belgium, the which 1
  2. 2. resolved to abolish internal borders among them. In later developments of the agreement many more countries joined in, allowing persons and goods to move freely within the Schengen area. At present, there are twenty-seven EU-member states, twenty-five of which participate in Schengen cooperation. Concomitant with the dissolution of internal borders, however, is a compensatory strengthening of the external border, which under Article 96 of the Schengen Convention intends to keep unwanted aliens out. According to statistics, there are 1,792 designated EU external border-crossing points with controls. This includes 665 air borders, 871 sea borders, and 246 land borders.i The task of border enforcement is therefore a formidable one for the European Union. Since September 11, 2001, the EU has invested billions of euros into the deployment of border control information technology programs.ii Additionally, in 2005 the EU established an agency called FRONTEX, whose aim is “to coordinate the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security”.iii FRONTEX is quite simply the brawn at the border. Given Europe’s geographical position, 62% of FRONTEX’s budget goes to maritime operations. FRONTEX oversees what it calls an “integrated border security model” and enlists the participation of other member states (money and equipment) so that their southern European neighbors are not alone in defending the external border. In 2003, the Group of Personalities (GoP) convened to discuss strategies toward securitizing Europe. The GoP consisted of European parliamentarians and leaders from the defense and information technology industries. In the introduction to their report the authors state that “new technology trends offer new opportunities. Civil, security and defence applications increasingly draw on the same technological base – creating new synergies between different research sectors” (7).iv A later incarnation of this group, the European 2
  3. 3. Security Research Advisory Board (ESRAB) lay out similar, if not more carefully constructed objectives. (See Appendix 1) The keyword here is synergy, which allows the potential for various industries to interact and share knowledge because of a shared technological base. This year the EU has budgeted 1.4 billion euros over a period of seven years toward the research and development of technologies focused on security.v Research is concentrated on the four following areas: improving citizen security, strengthening infrastructure security, border monitoring and crisis management. The fruits of this research must benefit all member states, and to do so among all twenty-seven requires significant strides in information sharing, system interoperability, and enhanced data and communication security. And yet while huge efforts go into developing infallible information systems for tracking individuals, the EU is equally reliant on brawn at the border, as evidenced by the creation of FRONTEX. Surveillance is a big, complicated, and expensive business. In this environment civil information technology companies collaborate with militaries, arms manufacturers influence social policy-making, and tools used to monitor climate change give a return on investment by tracking migratory flows of persons. All for the purpose of keeping the unwanted out. 1. The Schengen Information System Among the tools that the EU uses to monitor its external borders is the Schengen Information System (SIS). Most commonly, the use of the SIS is in airports and by agencies issuing visas. The SIS is a centralized European Union-wide database that became operational in March Each participating country has its own national SIS database, 3
  4. 4. which links up to the centralized SIS.vii These databases contain alphanumeric data on the following: • persons wanted for arrest and extradition • persons banned from entering the Schengen area • missing and dangerous persons • people wanted to appear in court • people to be placed under surveillance • lost and stolen objects.viii The user interface of the SIS national databases is called SIRENE, which stands for Supplementary Information Request at the National Entry. The technical support function of SIS is in Strasbourg, France. Users issue alerts on their national SIS on individuals deemed a threat to public safety. This then enters the centralized SIS, making the data available to all other Schengen states. Following 9/11, the European Council asked member states to increase data entry into the SIS. According to Statewatch statistics, Italy and Germany have been the highest issuers of alerts to refuse entry to third-country aliens.ix Categories of data entered into the system by users (immigration officials, police officers, embassies and consulates) within each national SIS database include: • surname and forenames, any aliases possibly entered separately • any specific objective physical characteristics not subject to change • first letter of second forename • date and place of birth • sex • nationality 4
  5. 5. • whether the persons concerned are armed • whether the persons concerned are violent • reason for the alert • action to be taken. The original SIS system could accommodate up to eighteen countries. With the enlargement of the EU, however, the SIS has had to expand its capabilities. In anticipation of this growth, the EU began considering a second-generation database system, or SIS2. Projected for 2011, SIS2 will incorporate digital images, biometric data such as fingerprints and facial images, and will answer police requests within five seconds. According to Bantekas and Nash (2003), the majority of entries on the SIS have to do with immigration rather than criminal concerns: “It has been suggested that the SIS is not primarily a tool for tackling serious crime, but is a basis for preventing illegal immigration and for tracing lost or stolen property. The successful ‘hit’ rate of the system is generally low and it is questionable whether the information held on the SIS is accurate” (279).x Indeed, questions have been raised as to the accuracy of data contained in the database, although the Schengen Convention states that persons with entries in the system have the right to access their personal data. What the SIS is (or isn’t) doesn’t deserve much exploration. After all, it is basically a large database containing information mostly about third-country nationals traveling to the EU. The SIS2 will undoubtedly be a bigger, faster system with more capabilities. What the SIS represents, however, and what it does, is worth exploring. Surveillance is mere people- watching so long as the the subject remains anonymous. Combine people-watching with a powerful information system supported by interoperable databases and you have the potential 5
  6. 6. for uninterrupted, absolute surveillance. 2. Border Defense: SIVE and Sea Horse. While the SIS monitors the flow of persons through airports, the EU takes a more militaristic approach to the protection of its southern maritime borders. Paradoxically, most illegal immigrants in the EU are individuals who entered legally but overstayed their visas. Nevertheless, a tremendous amount of financial and intellectual resources seek to slow, if not eradicate, the northward migration of North Africans and sub-Saharans. As opposed to a land border, which a state can enforce with a line, a fence, or a wall, a sea border poses challenges to border enforcement. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a coastal state may claim sovereignty over waters extending twelve nautical miles from the shoreline.xi To the naked eye, however, this kind of border is impossible to observe. Thus the EU relies more and more on advanced systems of radar and satellite surveillance to monitor these borders. For the purposes of this paper I will focus on Spain. (See Appendix 2-6) Spain has implemented the S.I.V.E. (Sistema integrado de vigilancia exterior)xii system to hinder would-be immigrants to their shores. The S.I.V.E., a function of the Spanish Guardia Civil,xiii consists of three main components: watchtowers provisioned with fixed and mobile detection devices, including radars and thermal and infrared cameras; control centers that operate the watchtower equipment remotely and coordinate command; and interception units, such as boats, helicopters, and land vehicles, that dispatch when called. (See Appendices 2-7) The first S.I.V.E. station was built nearby Gibraltar in 2001. When the Partido 6
  7. 7. Popular (PP)xiv enacted the S.I.V.E., they appointed €150 million over a five year period to the project. In retrospect, this was roughly the equivalent of €1,800 per migrant intercepted (Carling 2007). Since then, forty-three more stations have been added to the armada, covering a total of 1,000 kilometers of Spanish coastline. The purpose of the system is to detect foreign vessels early and act aggressively against potential illegal immigration and narcotrafficking. The S.I.V.E. is most prominent around the Strait of Gibraltar and in the Canary Islands. Seen as the object of direct “threat” given their close proximity to southern Morocco and Western Sahara, the Canary Islands’ S.I.V.E. stations possess radar technology capable of detecting vessels up to 25 km offshore. This gives Guardia Civil officers three hours to intercept the vessel. These same instruments were deployed in the war in Afghanistan (Carling 2007). While the S.I.V.E. has had an impact on curbing illegal immigration within its jurisdiction, in reality migration patterns continue to flow, only diverted to other areas. For instance, where the S.I.V.E. is not fully capable, such as in farther parts of the Canary Islands or in the Alborán Sea, irregular migration continues to occur. The S.I.V.E. has not ended illegal immigration; it has only made it more dangerous and costly for the migrant. Migrants are forced to seek longer and riskier routes, which inevitably leads to higher numbers of fatalities.xv The information technology firm contracted to develop and manage the S.I.V.E. is Indra Sistemas, a Madrid-based company whose purview includes transport and traffic, energy and industry, security and defense, and telecommunications and media. In the first half of 2008, defense and security amounted to 29% of Indra’s business.xvi . Indra seeks to expand sales of its radars and equipment for satellite technology, border surveillance and 7
  8. 8. flight data processing. European policy makers have concluded that migration control is impossible without third-country cooperation. Within the context of the sea, where sovereignty is impossible to determine without location-based technology, the interception of boats of migrants is tricky business. Hence the development of the Sea Horse communication networks, another Indra initiative. Sea Horse is a satellite-based system that allows participating neighbor countries (Spain, Portugal, Mauritania, Senegal and Cape Verde) to exchange information and coordinate efforts against illegal immigration and narcotrafficking.xvii FRONTEX undoubtedly helps organize this collaborative framework. In 2006 the EU signed agreements with the governments of Mauritania, Cape Verde and Senegal to extend Frontex’s operations into their territorial waters. Therefore via international political treaties the EU has managed to find way to impose its sovereignty (and technology) on third-countries in the effort to seal its borders. Technologically speaking, Sea Horse integrates the use of UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, for capturing images and providing real-time data. In addition, the Sea Horse enables information sharing among external information systems, such as S.I.V.E. and the automatic identification system (AIS) to see visual pictures of threats in real time.xviii And Indra continues to triumph: €25 million from the Portuguese government to set up a command and control surveillance system of 560+ miles of coastline; a contract to implement an integrated surveillance system along the Black Sea border of Romania; the exclusive controller of satellites launched in Spain. 8
  9. 9. Conclusion. The Schengen Convention opened up Europe’s internal borders, allowing for the free movement of persons throughout the Schengen area. The Berlin Wall came down and border checkpoints disappeared, facilitating the transport of people and goods. At the same time, the Schengen Convention delineates the importance of reinforcing the external borders of Europe in order to keep unwanted aliens out. Therefore it is data that determines “advance- to-go” or “go-back-three-spaces” to use a Monopoly® analogy. With so many countries cooperating in this mission, the task of border enforcement requires sophisticated technological tools to make invisible walls. The buzz words data-sharing and synergies apply to border enforcement and surveillance as much as they do among other industries. Without data, the current border paradigm in Europe would collapse, for there is no other way of monitoring the entry of people, either in airports or by sea. Hayes (2009) foresees this interoperability will lead to constant surveillance: “This new generation of ‘e-borders’ is being linked into existing law enforcement databases and government IT systems, providing a high-tech security blanket that will ultimately stretch from Europe’s airports and land borders to illegal immigration ‘snatch squads’ and police on the streets equipped with hand-held fingerprint scanners.” While knowledge sharing and system interoperability are fundamentally good things, they reveal a shadowy side within the realm of border protection. Satellite surveillance as a means of monitoring environmental changes (the Land and Sea Monitoring for Environment and Security LIMES project for example) can just as easily monitor the movement of people. With the goal of data collection for data sharing, the border ends up watching you. To end, I’d like to share Sergio Carrera’s assessment of this border paradigm: “The 9
  10. 10. European policy on border security appears to be primarily focused on the development of non-tangible, technology-based and dispersed borders centered on the need to track and ‘manage’ the individual through the use of new technologies and Europe-wide databases.”xix With new capabilities data collection and management, we as a global community are obsessed with knowing all. Yet at what price? When are our political leaders going to acknowledge that an ethical review of these “securitizing” practices is necessary, and that more is not necessarily more? 10
  11. 11. Appendix 1. European Security Research Agenda Board (ESRAB) objectives. From Meeting the challenge: the European Security Research Agenda: A report from the European Security Research Advisory Board (2006) 11
  12. 12. Appendix 2. S.I.V.E. “The Integrated System of Border Surveillance (S.I.V.E.) is a pioneering program in Europe designed to fight against illegal immigration and drug smuggling networks in the Strait of Gibraltar. Investment: 142.43 million euros” 12
  13. 13. Appendix 3. S.I.V.E. Control Centers in Málaga, Algeciras, and on the Cádiz coast of Spain. “With a control center in Algeciras, three fixed coastal stations and seven mobile units the project is capable of localizing any kind of suspicious vessel, identifying it and facilitating its interception.” 13
  14. 14. Appendix 4. “Early detection. The station detects via the radar and cameras the presence of a human body or motor, eliminating all that could give false signals, including waves.” 14
  15. 15. Appendix 5. “Monitoring and Coordination. The system must proceed to interception. Estimation of the probable trajectory given its actual position.” 15
  16. 16. Appendix 6. “Reponse and Coordination. Dispatching of resources. The operator dispatches the units in operation that are closest to the objective.” 16
  17. 17. 17
  18. 18. i Endnotes. E reference=MEMO/08/85&format=HTML&aged=1&language=EN&guiLanguage=en Accessed December 13, 2009. ii Koslowski, R. (2007) “Border Security Policies and Technologies in the EU.” Podcast on UCLA International Institute web site. Accessed December 1, 2009. Available at: iii What is Frontex? Accessed December 15, 2009. Available here: iv Group of Personalities (2004) Research for a Secure Europe, available at: v The EU’s 7th Framework Programme for research (FP7). eu/60/article_6008_en.html. Accessed December 14, 2009 vi “SIS II takes ominous shape” vii Michael, K. & Michael, M. G. K. Michael and M. G. Michael. "Schengen Information System II: The balance between civil liberties, security and justice" Australia and the New Technologies: Evidence Based Policy in Public Administration (1 ed). Ed. Katina Michael and MG Michael. Wollongong: University of Wollongong, 2008. 173-182. viii Hayes, B. (2005) SIS II: fait accompli?Construction of EU’s Big Brother database underway. Statewatch Analysis ix ‘Three-quarters of a million "illegal aliens" banned from Schengen area’, Statewatch News Online, April 2005: x Bantekas, I. & Nash, S. (2003). International Criminal Law. London: Cavendish Publishing Limited. 2003. xi Overview and full text of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 xii Integrated System of Border Surveillance (my translation) xiii The Guardia Civil, according to their website, is a military armed service that serves to protect the rights and liberties of Spaniards. xiv The PP is the center-right political party in Spain. It was in power under the leadership of Jose Maria Aznar from 2000-2004. xv lists migrant deaths at 3,830 for the period of December 2002 to the present. This number only includes documented deaths. See: xvi Whitington, T. (2008 September 01) Indra Is in Expansion Mode. Defense Technology International 2(7), 48. xvii Buschschluter, V. (2009 January 25) Satellite Helps Fight Illegal Immigration. Accessed December 02, 2009. Available at: xviii Interior confía a Indra el despliegue de la nueva red Sea Horse Network. (2008 May 23) Retrieved December 4, 2009 from web site: red-Sea-Horse-Network.aspx xix Carrera, S. (2007). The EU Border Management Strategy: FRONTEX and the Challenges of Irregular Immigration. Centre for European Policy Studies.