TECS, CBP’s international entry/ exit log of crossings of US borders since 1987, is being “modernized” into ICM, an “intelligence system” and database index built by the Silicon Valley tech company, Palantir. ICM is based on Palantir’s off-the-shelf Gotham tool designed for police departments, but is configured specifically for DHS’ Homeland Security Investigations.
ICM allows instantaneous search of other government intelligence platforms such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI. ICM can access AFI (also made by Palantir, and detailed below) and can query ACRIMe. Users of ICM can access both government-owned and private criminalizing databases and biometric data.Footnote 1 These include the FBI Terrorist Screening Center’s Terrorist Screening Database,Footnote 2 NCIC,Footnote 3 and Nlets.Footnote 4
Since 1987, CBP officers have used TECS as their main system at the border and elsewhere to screen arriving travelers and determine their admissibility. TECS recorded law enforcement “lookouts,” border screening data, and reporting from CBP’s primary and secondary inspection processes. TECS includes free-form notes written by CBP officers and Border Patrol agents about individuals with whom they interact. CBP officers and Border Patrol agents can allege that someone’s behavior might be related to intelligence gathering or preoperational planning related to terrorism, criminal, or other illicit intention; this notation will stay on a person’s permanent record, regardless of the outcome of the encounter.Footnote 5
Buying an airline ticket for an international flight creates a flag in the TECS system if you are already being tracked in the database.Footnote 6 ICE analysts can sign up for notification alerts, so if you have a final order of removal, for example, and purchase an international airline ticket in your name, ICE can send agents to meet you at the airport.Footnote 7