U.S. Government Is Monitoring All Global Entry Members Daily

A decade ago when I signed up for Global Entry I rationalized turning over my biometrics because the government was already extensively monitoring everyone, in ways that had been inconceivable prior to 9/11. I wrote – long before the Snowden revelations – that the government was, for instance, collecting all cell phone geolocation data. We later learned they were even tapping internet traffic.

Once you sign up for Global Entry, though, the government performs a search on you daily, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s latest performance and accountability report.

  • There are currently over 31 million people with Known Traveler numbers

  • As of October 1, 2022 there were 7.4 million people with Global Entry

  • 10 million applications were pending as that time.

Every day DHS performs searches on every single person with Global Entry for information that would suggest a change in ‘risk’, disqualifying them from the program. Around 12,000 people were kicked out of Global Entry in the government’s fiscal year 2022.

In the fine print of applying for Global Entry, the Department says, “consent is implied” to constant review, even when people aren’t traveling. According to the Department, in the year ending last October, about 12,000 Global Entry members have had their special status revoked. The main cause, according to Customs and Border Protection, is detection of any “ongoing investigation by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency,” a change in status that DHS computers detect, flagging the trusted travelers.

Customs and Border Protection [CBP] “checks all GE members against major law enforcement databases every 24 hours,” the report says.

I’ve written about the reasons why people are losing Global Entry in the past, noting that the major reasons include:

  • uncovering a past conviction that wasn’t disclosed during the application period (generally minor offenses over 10 years old, such as a DUI, are fine if you disclose them)

  • a conviction while you’re in the program

  • derogatory information from another government

  • breaking program rules or rules in the immigration hall such as failing to declare items or bringing ineligible family members with you into the Global Entry queues, if the customs officer decides to make an issue of it

There are a number of factors that the government considers that have nothing to do with whether you’re likely to be a terrorist, or whether you’re likely to violate U.S. customs procedures. In some sense signing up for Global Entry means that you’re ‘on the government’s radar’ but given the scale, they’re scanning over 7 million people per day and they haven’t been able to clear a backlog of millions of applications, I still treat myself as sufficiently obscure and buried in the pile to feel any sense of being targeted.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Americans spend a lot of time worrying about the supposed surveillance state in China, and approximately zero time worrying about the ogrous surveillance and security state that they live under in their own country.

    Americans who exercise their supposed Constitutional right to travel – which is granted by authorities in the breach – but don’t want to wait in two hour immigration lines, must cede their right to privacy and “consent” to being tracked by authorities.

  2. I know of an open application going back to February. It’s absurd how long this is taking. I pay 40% of my income and get nothing in return, not even a timely review of an application. America is in decline. It’s well past the time to drain the swamp!

  3. I can attest that they monitor and have been doing it for awhile. Had GE and got a DUI. Took an international trip and on my way back got flagged going through GE and pulled aside. Had to go talk to them in their office. They wouldn’t tell me why it was being revoked, only that I should know (I sort of did, but wanted to hear them say it). I also got chastised for not carrying my GE card on me. I had it in my bag somewhere but wasn’t digging it out at the time. Obviously can’t reapply and get it, but surprisingly haven’t really missed it. Been able to get through immigration without it just as quick.

  4. Your bureaucracy at work. And it’s like a cancer that metastases, constantly growing. I work in DC. Most people outside the beltway don’t have a clue. All they care about is that their party wins. Very little attention is paid to what they do, on either side of the aisle. One day it’s gonna be too late. We’re coming frighteningly close already.

  5. How would you feel if the article was entitled, “US Government NOT Bothering to Monitor ANY Global Entry Members” ?

    I, for one, am glad they’re checking. If you don’t want them looking at you…don’t sign up for the program. It’s really that simple!

  6. What “privileges” government gives, government can pull.

    Unfortunately, the administrative state’s ability to play the public is less restrained legally than it should be. But this is the natural outcome given the government apologist courts and other establishment players and even the general public playing along with the “it’s for your own good/safety so don’t be critical of what we do” impoverished thinking and attempt to bury challenges to the status quo supporting powers than need more public challenging in the public’s interest.

    It’s long overdue that we give up this idea that Global Entry or PreCheck type screening privileges at airports are justifiable on the basis of these weak pay-to-play background checks.

    Keep in mind on what is to soon be the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity that the 9/11 hijackers passed the DHS predecessor departments’/agencies’ checks too.

  7. @Gary – This is really interesting! Imagine the FBI begins a counter-terrorism investigation against you, but doesn’t want you to know. You could be tipped off that *something* is being investigated, because your GE got revoked for “reasons we can’t tell you.”

    FWIW, I don’t think searching for changes in status that would otherwise have prevented GE in the first place counts as “monitoring” in a bad sense. It’s a voluntary program, ostensibly designed around risk reduction and expediting travel for everyone (if I only take 2 mins at security instead of 5, everyone behind me benefits!). I would fully expect them to be monitoring for things that indicate a change in eligibility to use GE. If I’m surprised, it’s only that minor stuff triggers a revocation (would a speeding ticket disqualify me?).

  8. Ever use Google Maps and see the traffic flow (red for congestion, green for flowing traffic)? At first I thought that maybe Google has links with state department of transportation data or news traffic reports. No. Google is tracking you all the time. If you are slowly moving, Google figures there is a traffic jam.

    The Covid vaccine does not have a secret tracker. It’s your phone. Get your Covid booster in about 10 days when the updated vaccine comes out. Covid cases are on the rise. So is long Covid.

  9. Some people should thank them. Consider it a warning sign if you become the target of an investigation and don’t know it.

  10. “If you don’t want them looking at you…don’t sign up for the program. It’s really that simple!”

    Perfectly illustrates why the country is in its current state. The level of naivety is stunning. The average person has no understanding of the concept of individual rights.

  11. I’m not surprised, when there is a chance to expand its power most institutions will do that no matter what they say. Ethics, morality, even whether it is useful to do so rarely if ever come up when there is “a reason” involved, and there’s always an excuse. Every government, every political party, really every big corporation follows the same path. The problem of course is that people become used to it and what was unthinkable is soon routine and widespread. Can you imagine World War 2’s “Greatest Generation” putting up with crap like drug tests or body scanners? Me neither. And now you find metal detectors all over the place and nobody complains because they have been corroded to accept such things as routine. Better questions might be why are Americans so gun crazy or why does our government think it can control other countries without them getting mad at us. But don’t expect any politician to seriously ask such questions, as there’s too much money to be made in the Military-Industrial-Security State. “Land of the free and home of the brave” is a joke.

  12. Being a member of the GOP or supporting conservative/fascist ideas should get you kicked out of the program.

    I consider white republican men a greater threat than ISIS.

  13. @James N: Gee thanks! I had no idea I was somehow responsible for the “state of the country”…who knew?

    Now…let’s get real…if you think you have individual rights…you do…go buy a deserted island and live there by yourself. You will have all the individual freedom you’ll ever want.

    For the rest of us…we live in a nation of rules, regs, and laws. To live within the society you agree to abide by those laws or face consequences. So…if you want Global Entry…understand that your precious “individual rights” may just be compromised for the safety of the rest of us.

    It’s either that or go enjoy the coconuts on your private island!

  14. Who cares. So the administrator of the program bumps a database once a day to see if members have been arrested or such. What did we think they were doing? I’d consider that to be table stakes.

    In some parallel universe, a travel blogger has written a piece about how Global Entry is security theater because the member list is never checked against law enforcement databases and wanted fugitives could be freely coming and going across the borders…

  15. After Snowdon we all know that we are all being tracked daily and that USG is trying to read our emails and monitor what websites we visit. On the plus side the NSA data center does not have a very good way to sift through the trillions of bits of data, and even less likely that they would forward such tidbits to TSA. More likely the daily “scan” covers criminal records and the like. So I would not worry too much about your social media posts.

  16. Nothing better than when people validate your position, such as TravelWarr. He completely proves he has no understanding of what I wrote. Amazing!

  17. I guess I’m in the minority — I don’t give a $#|+ that they “monitor daily” people in the GE program. I guess that may be in part due to the fact the FBI came to my house when I was 14 to see why I was getting so much mail from the Soviet Embassy in Washington (this was in 1968 and J. Edgar Hoover was busy rooting out Commies and saying “There’s no such thing as the Mafia!”). But it’s also in part due to a belief in “better safe than sorry,” and I’d rather see them monitor the program daily than have another 9/11 take place. Now, personally, I think it’s stupid to lose GE due to a DUI (for example) or other minor offense — someone who has one too many gets arrested for a DUI isn’t a threat to hijack a plane and take down a building. (Felony charges, especially violent ones, are an entirely different matter of course.)

    In terms of the length of time it takes for approval/renewal, my renewal application was approved in 48 HOURS. So, too, was my wife’s renewal. Neither one of us work for the government nor hold any type of security clearances, so it’s not as if they have “extra information” on us or already have “deep background checks” on file. I work for a winery in California and she is an attorney in private practice. Maybe they just don’t like people named Joe Shmoe…

  18. Count me amongst those who considers this a nothingburger. Some robot is looking for database entries that suggest you might not be GE material anymore. I would expect most such derogatory information to be pushed through the government computers anyway, that it reaches the GE computers is water-is-wet level news to me.

    Nothing in this article says they’re doing any digging, just that they’re acting on what the government already knows.

  19. My spouse applied for renewal since April and hasn’t gotten a reply yet. While mine took just 3 days. Go figure. Called 2 weeks ago to check on progress and was told it could take as long as 6 – 8 mths.

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