On May 21, 2015, the German Marshall Fund of the United States’ (GMF) Berlin Office hosted Kevin K. McAleenan, deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for a breakfast discussion entitled “Border Management and Data Sharing.“ Astrid Ziebarth, Migration Fellow of the Europe Program at GMF’s Berlin Office, moderated the discussion with representatives from government ministries, the federal police, embassies, and the private sector.
The border management aspect of counter-terrorism strategies on both sides of the Atlantic today rely on a shared consensus of security threats emanating, for instance, from returning foreign fighters from combat zones such as Syria and Iraq as well as homegrown terrorists. McAleenan described the collection and use of data for systematic security checks at the border as a necessary complement to interior policing efforts (adding another layer of risk identification). He also identified how cooperation structures among U.S. agencies, including border protection, have changed since 9/11 when facing security threats.
McAleenan further highlighted the cooperation and negotiations between the European Union and the United States, for example on passenger name records (PNR), in particular in terms of the categories of data to be collected and used, the process of data storage, as well as the collection of data on EU citizens. With regard to the last point, policy debates oscillate between those concerned that such a collection may undermine fundamental rights and those that argue that such data collection in fact greatly facilitates travel for the majority of persons. Moreover, with the visa waiver program (ESTA) in place between the U.S. and the EU, the way the EU monitors the movement of its own citizens has direct security implications for the United States as well.
The discussion also touched upon privacy and constitutional concerns in Germany and Europe on data collection, recent developments in irregular migration management in the United States as well as the intersection of irregular migration flows and security concerns related to the increase of refugees and asylum seekers across the Mediterranean and at EU borders.