The secret text of the GOP's border bill reveals plan to dramatically increase surveillance of Americans and visitors

Sen. John Cornyn [R-TX, @JohnCornyn, +1 202-224-2934] introduced the Building America's Trust Act as a "long-term border security and interior enforcement strategy" but refused to release the bill's text, which has now leaked.

Ars Technica has published the bill in full, revealing a disturbing plan to subject Americans, permanent residents and visitors to an unprecedented and invasive surveillance regime.


"This is a surveillance bill in pretty weak disguise. And it won't be limited to immigrants," Alvaro Bedoya, a law professor at Georgetown University, told Ars. "It would pave the way for more face scans of American citizens at airports. It would aggressively deploy drones at the 'border,' but [it] doesn't mention that DHS interprets its authority to operate at the 'border' to extend to any area within 100 miles of the actual legal border."

Just last month, Bedoya spoke out against a DHS expansion of facial recognition of outbound travelers at a handful of American airports.

Jake Laperruque, a lawyer with the Constitution Project, e-mailed Ars to say that the bill is a "mass surveillance expansion" that is "masquerading as border security."

"Controversial measures—like stockpiling biometric databases, using facial recognition on everyone at points of travel, and sending drones along the entire border zone—should raise alarm bells," he e-mailed.

Similarly, Neema Singh Guliani, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars that the bill "includes an alarming amount of unnecessary surveillance that goes far beyond current practices."

"It proposes a host of privacy invasive technologies to track and surveil individuals in the US—including iris scans, DNA, face recognition, and drones," she continued. "It proposes this surge in surveillance with virtually no regard to privacy or the legitimate Fourth Amendment interests at stake."

Building America’s Trust Act would amp up privacy concerns at the border
[Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]

Loading...