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Harper moving ahead with cross-border policing despite privacy concerns with perimeter deal

The Harper government is moving ahead with a perimeter security project he has not yet cleared with the public or parliament but which has clear legal and privacy issues, according to news reports today.

According to Associated Press, US Attorney General Eric Holder told a meeting of federal prosecutors from US northern border states today that Canada and the US “will each designate officers who can work investigations on both sides of the border in a new pilot project next year.” The initiative stems from Harper’s perimeter security talks with the Obama administration, Holder says, and will duplicate on land what the cross-border Shiprider project is already doing in shared waterways.

Holder calls the threats at the Canada-US border “unprecedented.” He says, “the creation of ‘NextGen’ teams of cross-designated officers would allow us to more effectively identify, assess and interdict persons and organizations involved in transnational crime.”

Richard Hartunian, U.S. attorney fory in the Northern District of New York, says the idea is to “Work Together. Operate across the border together. And respect the sovereignty of each nation. That’s the challenge. We all have different concerns and different laws that apply different situations.”

Details of the new project, which is listed as an example of the kind of cross-border policing Harper would like to pursue with Obama in the perimeter deal, are not available but it’s clear the plans are well advanced.

“Holder said senior officials from the U.S. Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security have been meeting since December with counterparts from Public Safety Canada and Justice Canada on how to proceed,” writes Associated Press. “He promised it won’t jeopardize citizens’ privacy rights.”

The obvious question is why is Harper consulting with Canadians on a done deal? We haven’t had a chance to yea or nay the perimeter agreement, which is expected to be released as an “action plan” within weeks. But a pilot project that legalizes and normalizes US policing activities in Canada is already set to begin next year.

The news confirms fears we expressed last week that the Harper government will use its limited public consultations earlier this year to move ahead quickly with whatever new cross-border policing and information sharing commitments it wants, regardless of privacy and other concerns.