Canadian border guards have secret access to a US "anti-terror" database of 680,000 names

Canadian border guards' terminals give them secret access to Tuscan, a database maintained by US spy agencies of suspected terrorists; the database has some 680,000 names in it and if you match one of those names, Canadian border and immigration officials are empowered to "detain, interrogate, arrest and deny entry" to you.

The entire programme has been run in secret and was revealed thanks to dogged public records requests by The Guardian.

Though the list has a potentially drastic impact on the lives of Canadians, Canadians who believe that they have been erroneously added to it have no right to have their inclusion investigated — they are at the mercy of US authorities who have no obligations to foreign nationals.

The US anti-terror lists are notoriously inaccurate — 40% of the names on the the FBI's list have no connection to terrorism — and are racially biased.

Despite this, Ottawa is forging ahead with an update to the system. The briefing notes obtained by the Guardian, prepared for Ralph Goodale, Canada's public safety minister, reveal the Canadian government has worked for the past three years to expand its involvement in Tuscan, without public acknowledgment or public consultation.

A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada confirmed that Tuscan is provided to all Canadian border and immigration officials "for the purpose of guiding decisions on admissibility to Canada".

The spokesperson said that, while an agreement was signed in June 2016 to expand and modernize the program, negotiations were ongoing between the two countries to finalize the details.

When asked what Ottawa is doing to ensure that the database is accurate, and to ensure that innocent travellers aren't caught up in the database, the spokesperson said: "Procedures have been introduced to allow for the consideration of exculpatory and clarifying information, as well as to update and correct information when errors are detected. Protocols also exist around the use and protection of information."

Revealed: Canada uses massive US anti-terrorist database at borders
[Justin Ling/The Guardian]