Amnesty/SMJ Oct 27 Symposium, translated Public Appeal for abolition of NJ fingerprinting program


Hi Blog. Amnesty International Japan asked me to translate their public appeal for their Oct 27, 2007 Tokyo Symposium, calling for the abolition of the November 20 Reinstitution of Fingerprints for (almost) All Foreigners Program. Text follows below.

Sent it in an hour ago. If you like what they’re saying, attend this symposium. Details on where it’s being held here.

You want to get organized and stop all foreigners from being treated as terrorists? Now’s your chance. Arudou Debito in Tokyo



Sponsored by Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)
(Draft One, Translated by Arudou Debito, not yet approved translation)

The introduction of the Japan version of the US-VISIT Program, where almost all non-Japanese residents and re-entrants will have their fingerprints, face photographs, and personal details taken and recorded upon (re-)entry, is imminent.

Although this system, which was approved by the 2006 regular session of the Japanese Diet (Parliament) mainly as a means of combating terrorism, has not in our opinion been properly deliberated and considered by our policymakers.

For example:

1) Is it acceptable for these measures to be adopted without clear legislation regarding the collection, processing, use, and disposal of fingerprints, which is highly personal and biotic data?

2) Is it acceptable to entrust this kind of data, which as fingerprints and photos are of a highly personal and distinguishing nature, to all governmental bodies in this manner?

3) Is the technology behind biometric data collection really all that reliable?

4) Can we truly say that the definition and classification of “terrorist” has been clearly defined by law?

5) Have proper restrictions been put in place so that this information is not given to other governments?

These questions were neither adequately addressed nor answered when this program was passed by our legislators. Further, based upon our legislators’ answers and misunderstandings about these measures, it is clear that this program has been adopted without an adequate degree of preparation. Even though a year has passed since this program was approved, the above concerns remain unaddressed.

For these reasons we make this public appeal. We oppose this “Japanese version of the US-VISIT Program”, and add the following reasons:

The basis for requiring non-Japanese to give biometric data when entering Japan is the presupposition that “foreigners are terrorists”. This is discrimination towards non-Japanese people. With the exception of the Special Permanent Residents etc., taking fingerprints, photos, and other biometric data from almost all non-Japanese is an excessive and overreaching policy. In light of Japan’s history of using fingerprinting as a means to control and track non-Japanese residents, one must not forget that thus equating non-Japanese with criminals is a great insult and indignity.

It has also become clear in Diet deliberations that this biometric data will not only be utilized for “anti-terrorism”, but also in regular criminal investigations. This use is of sensitive biotic data is clearly beyond the bounds of the original goal of these measures, something we cannot allow our government to do.

Further, there an assumption that this data will be kept on file for at most 80 years, which means it will amount to millions of people being recorded. It goes without saying that keeping this much sensitive data (given that biometric data is the ultimate in personal information) for this long is highly dangerous.

Add the fact that the very definition of “terrorist” is vague, and that it is being applied not merely to people who “undertake action with the goal of threatening the public”. People who are “probable agents” of terrorism, or “can easily become probable agents” of terrorism, or who are even “acknowledged by the authorities as having sufficient grounds for becoming agents” of terrorism, are also included. This is completely unclear, and creates fears that Immigration officials will deliberately use this as a means to expand their powers.

Meanwhile, it is nowhere acknowledged that the US-VISIT Program is in any way an effective means of preventing terrorism. In fact, the very model for this system, the United States, has been advised by its Government Accountability Office that the US-VISIT Program has some serious weaknesses.

In other words, the US-VISIT Program, nominally introduced for anti-terrorism purposes, has not been clearly adjudged as fulfilling such purposes adequately. In fact, introducing said system has created clear and present human rights abuses. Even if such system was proposed for the express purposes of “anti-terrorism”, any country duty-bound to hold human rights in high regard has no mandate to do this. This point has been stressed several times by the United Nations, and in other international organizations debating anti-terror. It is hard to deny the danger that this means to control foreigners, under the guise of “anti-terror”, will lead to a deliberate disadvantaging of specific races, religions, and ethnic groups–in other words, the embodiment of racial profiling and racial discrimination.

This “Japan version of the US-VISIT Program” is thus laden with problems. There is not enough reason for it to be introduced in this version at this time. For this reason, we who have gathered at this symposium strongly oppose this program and demand its cancellation.

October 27, 2007

”Toward further control over foreign nationals?
Japan’s anti-terrorism policy and a Japanese version of the “US-VISIT” program”

Symposium organized by
Amnesty International Japan and Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan (SMJ)

Co-signed as Arudou Debito, Author, JAPANESE ONLY

5 comments on “Amnesty/SMJ Oct 27 Symposium, translated Public Appeal for abolition of NJ fingerprinting program

  • Meanwhile, it is nowhere acknowledged that the US-VISIT Program is in any way an effective means of terrorism. In fact, the very model for this system, the United States, has been advised by its Government Accountability Office that the US-VISIT Program has some serious weaknesses.

    David, You may have already caught this but I’d hate to see it slip through in the edit process. I’m glad to see that Amnesty International is taking notice and I hope to see some international response to this issue. Heck, it would even be nice to have seen some national news response to this. I can’t believe — no, I guess I can believe. I’ve lived here too long — there hasn’t been any outrage over this action in the press or on the news. Keep fighting the good fight.




    Regarding the American program, the number of persons on the US
    terrorist watch list is approaching a million now, an utter absurdity.

    Couple this fact with the strong evidence that the entire 9/11
    Commission Report is a disgraceful, manipulative coverup of the truth,
    as are the NIST and FEMA reports, and you come to the realization that
    the true purpose of the program is quite different from the stated
    purpose. Your cooperation with Amnesty is thus important and
    necessary. Thanks for it.


    From: timo3ee
    Subject: [Community] Re: Ideas for action against fingerpringing laws
    Date: October 25, 2007 5:46:22 PM JST
    To: communityinjapan

    …Just some of my thoughts about the science and politics behind
    the whole system….

    The Guise of Preventing Terrorism

    Biometrics, as a means for identifying friendlies from non-
    freiendlies, simply does not work. Consider that most of the 9/11
    attackers entered the U.S. under their own names and with valid
    passports. There is no great list of terrorists who can be
    identified by their fingerprints or photographs. Taxpayers are
    paying for a system that presents the illusion of security, and
    which also gives (back) the J-government the database of
    fingerprints and photos of all the foreigners in Japan, that it has
    always tried to maintain.


    Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the face-recognition software is
    99.99% accurate (an almost magical accuracy rate that is not
    available with today’s technology. Most software suffers from false
    positive identifications with something like a 20-40% occurance
    rate). That is, if someone is a terrorist, there is a 99.99% chance
    that the software indicates “terrorist,” and if someone is not a
    terrorist, there is a 99.99% chance that the software indicates “non-
    terrorist.” Assume that 1 in 10 million flyers, on average, is a
    known terrorist (this is problematic too, as most terrorists are not
    known as terrorists).
    So assuming all the above, the face-recognition software will
    generate 1000 false positives for every 1 real terrorist. And every
    false positive will mean delays, wrongful detainment, denial of
    entry, who knows what else.

    Your Information

    So who cares about having their biometric data stored on a
    government computer anyway? Well, Your information WILL be shared
    with other governments and maybe even private organisations, because
    the system only works so long as governments share the information
    amongst themselves. Japan has no homegrown database of international
    terrorist fingerprints or photographs. They have to get them, as
    well as lists of probable suspect names etc from other sources. And
    that, as you can imagine, will be `quid pro quo, Clarice’.
    Furthermore, the J-government has an extremely poor record when it
    comes to preserving private information. There I said it with a
    straight face. It would have been more honest to say that the
    information will be deliberately leaked or handed over to other
    departments `related to national security’, and private business
    will probably have access to this database within months. I’m sure
    many of us have had one of those phone calls where some giant
    corporation needed to get in contact with you but you had moved
    house, or changed your phone number without letting them know, yet
    they somehow managed to find you’re number anyway. Surprise! It’s
    only after the call when you wonder – “how the hell did they find
    out my number?”
    But what does having your private information out there matter
    anyway. At present, not so much. But when (not if) banks start
    accepting fingerprints as ID equal in status to a passport, driver’
    s license or signature, then you may be concerned. Also, when you
    get called in to the station to answer some questions about your
    whereabouts because some computer has “recognised” your image
    caught on security camera (e.g. “a black foreigner”) robbing a
    conbini. What happens the third time your called in as a suspect for
    unrelated crimes? Grin, say cheese and bear it?


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