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PHOTO BY PETR NOVAK, WIKIPEDIA SEE iris-scanning technology used in Afghanistan at PERRY WOWS THE PRESS unidentified editor speaking to the Dallas Morning News after Gov. Rick Perry’s appearance at the National 24. The governor refused to take questions after his speech, despite expectations that he would. “Clearly, you had ample time to work the room by shaking hands both before and after your talk. You also gave an extended interview before TV cameras in the hallway, in full view of NCEW members for whom you indicated you had no more time. This is an affront to any notion of civil discourse…” Tom Waseleski, NCEW President, in a letter to Perry afterward “It’s unfortunate that the president of the organization would think so highly of himself and his organization that he would write a letter like he did.” Perry spokesperson Mark Miner, in response to the letter FOR THE LATEST political analysis, read Bob Moser’s Purple Texas at Well, no, actually, according to the El Paso city attorney’s office. “You can’t say that people thought it would include this or that,” Senior Assistant City Attorney Elaine Hengen said at a council meeting on Sept. 14. “You have to look at the exact language.” That may be a blessing in disguise for El Paso’s gay city workers. The inexact wording may undermine a discriminatory ballot measure that El Paso voters otherwise might have approved. As they say, the Lord works in mysterious ways. TIMOTHY ROBERTS DEPT. OF BIG BROTHER Eye Spy THE MILITARIZATION OF THE TEXAS-MEXICO BORDER continues at a steady pace. In September, the Department of Homeland Security began Predator drone flights over the border. Now it’s testing iris scanning technology used in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the tests succeed, the department hopes to track immigrants by scanning their eyes. The two-to-eight week test begins in October at a Border Patrol station in McAllen, where agents will use off-the-shelf commercial scanners on undocumented immigrants. The U.S. military has used the technology overseas since 2007. It has amassed databases of biometric information on Iraqi and Afghan citizens. Like fingerprints, the iris is unique to every person. The Department of Homeland Security plans to test three types of commercial cameras during the pilot project to determine whether iris-scanning technology is faster and easier to use than fingerprinting. Newer models of the technology allow people to be scanned from distances of up to 30 feet. Individuals can also be scanned within a crowd. Privacy and civil rights advocacy groups, such as the ACLU, are wary of the biometric technology “Iris scanning can be done without your permission and at a distance,” ACLU lawyer Christopher Calabrese says, “It allows anyone with an Internet connection and a camera to essentially identify and track you.” The Department of Homeland Security released a “privacy impact” assessment in August to address such concerns. The agency says immigrants will have the right to refuse the scans during the trial period. The agency also plans to keep names and other identifying information separate from the scans. When the test period is over, the agency says it will destroy the iris scan information. Calabrese doubts that any immigrants will refuse. “If you’re in detention and law enforcement tells you to do something, you’re going to do it,” he says. Homeland Security said it won’t adopt the technology unless it’s more effective and faster than fingerprinting. The ACLU believes that if the agency adopts iris scanning technology at the border, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes commonplace in the rest of the United States. “We’ve seen time and time again, military applications like drones being used at the border first,” Calabrese says. “This helps soften the transition to the rest of the country.” Someday soon you, too, may have your movements tracked by government eye-scanners. MELISSA DEL BOSQUE 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG