Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Shifting Landscape of Passport Fraud



July 15, 2010 | 0857 GMT


By Scott Stewart


The recent case involving the arrest and deportation of the Russian intelligence network in the United States has once again raised the subject of document fraud in general and passport fraud in particular. The FBI’s investigation into the group of Russian operatives discovered that several of the suspects had assumed fraudulent identities and had obtained genuine passports (and other identity documents) in their assumed names. One of the suspects assumed the identity of a Canadian by the name of Christopher Robert Mestos, who died in childhood. The suspect was arrested in Cyprus but fled after posting bail; his true identity remains unknown. Three other members of the group also assumed Canadian identities, with Andrey Bezrukov posing as Donald Heathfield, Elena Vavilova as Tracey Foley and Natalia Pereverzeva as Patricia Mills.


Passport fraud is a topic that surfaces with some frequency in relation to espionage cases. (The Israelis used passport fraud during the January 2010 operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas militant commander.) Passport fraud is also frequently committed by individuals involved in crimes such as narcotics smuggling and arms trafficking, as well as by militants involved in terrorist plots. Because of the frequency with which passport fraud is used in these types of activities — and due to the importance that curtailing passport fraud can have in combating espionage, terrorism and crime — we thought it a topic worth discussing this week in greater detail.


Passports and Investigations




While the use of passports goes back centuries, the idea of a travel document that can be used to absolutely verify the identity of a traveler is a relatively new concept. Passports containing the photos of the bearer have only been widely used and mandated for international travel for about a century now, and in the United States, it was not until 1918 that Congress enacted laws mandating the use of U.S. passports for Americans returning from overseas and home country passports with visas for foreigners wishing to visit the United States. Passport fraud followed closely on the heels of these regulations. Following the American entry into World War I, special agents from the State Department’s Bureau of Secret Intelligence became very involved in hunting down German and Austrian intelligence officers who were then using forged documents to operate inside the United States.


In the decades after World War I, the Bureau of Secret Intelligence’s successor organization, the Office of the Chief Special Agent, became very involved in investigating Nazi and Communist agents who committed passport fraud to operate inside the United States. As the Office of the Chief Special Agent evolved into the State Department’s Office of Security and then finally the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), special agents from the organization continued to investigate passport and visa fraud. In addition to foreign intelligence officers, they have also investigated terrorists, fugitives and other criminals who have committed passport fraud. Since the State Department is the agency that issues U.S. passports and visas, it is also the primary agency charged with ensuring the integrity of those documents. Therefore, in much the same manner that U.S. Secret Service agents are charged with investigating counterfeit currency (and ensuring the integrity of currency for the Treasury Department), DS agents are charged with investigating passport fraud.


DS agents are not the only ones who investigate passport fraud, however. As the FBI matured organizationally and became the primary domestic counterintelligence agency, the bureau also began to work passport fraud investigations involving foreign intelligence officers. Soviet and other Communist “illegals” — intelligence officers operating without official cover — frequently assumed the identities of deceased infants, and because of this, the FBI developed a particular interest in passport fraud investigations involving infant death identity (IDI) cases. However, passport fraud is only one of the many criminal violations that the FBI investigates, and most FBI agents will not investigate a passport fraud case during their career.


As the agency primarily responsible for border and immigration enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) also investigates identity-document fraud, including passport fraud, although many of the cases ICE agents work involve foreign passports. ICE also has a forensic document laboratory that is the best in the world when it comes to the technical investigation of fraudulent identity documents.


Another U.S. government agency that watches passport fraud with a great deal of interest is the CIA. Not only does it have an operational interest in the topic — the agency wants to be able to use fraud for its own purposes — but it is also very interested in being able to verify the true identities of walk-ins and other potential sources. Because of this, the CIA needs to have the ability to spot fraudulent documents. During the 1980s, the CIA produced an excellent series of unclassified guides on the terrorist use of passport and visa fraud called the “Redbook.” The Redbook was discontinued in 1992, just as the jihadist threat to the United States was beginning to emerge.


As in any area where there are overlapping jurisdictions and investigations, there is sometimes tension and bureaucratic jealously between the various agencies involved in investigating passport fraud. The level of tension is frequently lower in scenarios where the agencies work together (as on joint terrorism task forces) and where the agents and agencies have become accustomed to working together. In the forensic realm, the ICE laboratory generally has an excellent relationship with the State Department, the FBI (and the document section of the FBI laboratory) and the CIA’s document laboratory.


Types of Passport Fraud




There are several different types of passport fraud. The first is the intentional issuing of a genuine passport in a false identity by a government. Real passports are often issued in false identities to provide cover for intelligence officers, but this can also be done for other reasons. For example, in late 1990, during Operation Desert Shield, the Iraqi government provided a large group of Iraqi intelligence officers with Iraqi passports in false identities so that these officials could travel abroad and conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. interests. These Iraqi teams were dispatched all over the world and were provided direction (as well as weapons and IED components) by Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in embassies abroad. The explosives and firearms were sent around the world via diplomatic pouches (which are exempt from search). Following failed terrorist attacks in Manila and Jakarta in January 1991, DS agents investigating the case discovered that the Iraqi operatives were traveling on sequentially numbered Iraqi passports. This discovery allowed a worldwide alert to go out and governments in several different regions of the world were able to arrest or deport scores of Iraqi agents.


A second type of fraud involving genuine passports is where the government is not knowingly involved in the issuance of the passport for the fraudulent identity. In such cases, an applicant uses fraudulent identification documents to apply for a passport. The group of documents needed to obtain a passport — called “breeder” documents — normally includes a birth certificate, a Social Security card and a driver’s license. A set of fraudulent breeder documents can be counterfeit, genuine but altered (this can be done by changing the name or date of birth) or genuine documents obtained by fraud.


This is where the IDI cases come in. In these cases, someone applies for a replacement birth certificate of a deceased infant or child of their approximate age and then uses the birth certificate to obtain a Social Security card and driver’s license. The person applying for the replacement birth certificate usually claims their original birth certificate was lost or stolen.


Due to changes in procedure and technology, however, it has become more difficult in recent years to obtain a copy of the birth certificate of an infant or child who died in the United States. Birth-certificate registries are now tied electronically to death registries in every state, and if someone attempts to get the birth certificate of a dead person, it is quickly noticed and an investigation launched. Also, Social Security numbers are now issued at birth, so it is very difficult for a 25- or 30-year-old person to apply for a new Social Security number. Because of these factors, IDI cases have declined significantly in the United States.


Breeder documents are generally easier to counterfeit or obtain by fraud than a passport. However, as identity documents become more cross-referenced in databases, it is becoming more difficult to obtain a passport using a counterfeit birth certificate and Social Security number. Because of this, it has become more common for a person to buy a set of genuine breeder documents from a drug user or criminal looking for some quick cash. It is also possible to buy a genuine birth certificate and Social Security card from a corrupt official. While such documents are genuine, and can carry the applicant’s true or chosen name, such genuine documents are much more expensive than the other options. Of course, passport office employees can also be bribed to issue a genuine passport with fraudulent breeder documents, though there is a remote risk that such fraud will be caught in an audit.


At the present time, it is far easier and cheaper to obtain a genuine foreign passport by fraud than it is a U.S. passport, but corruption and plain old mistakes still allow a small number of fraudulent U.S. passports to get into the system. There are still some countries where a genuine passport in any identity can be obtained for just a few hundred dollars. Generally, it is more difficult to get passports from more developed nations (such as those that participate in the U.S. visa waiver program) than it is from less developed nations, where corruption is more prevalent. Still, corruption is a worldwide problem when it comes to passports and other identity documents.




Stolen blank passports have also been used over the years. For example, after Operation Desert Storm, an Iraqi passport office in Basra was sacked and thousands of blank Iraqi passports were stolen and then sold on the black market. One of those blanks was bought by a Pakistani jihadist operative named Abdul Basit, who had the blank passport filled out with his photograph and the name of a fictitious Iraqi citizen named Ramzi Yousef. After he entered the United States, Basit organized the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The problem with stolen blanks is that they are usually reported fairly quickly and their numbers are entered into international databases. Furthermore, like a counterfeit passport, a stolen blank passport will not correspond to information entered into passport databases, and it is therefore difficult to travel using one. In the case of Basit, he used a British passport altered to include his photo to leave Pakistan but then used the Iraqi passport to make an asylum claim once he arrived in the United States.


This highlights another category of genuine passports used in passport fraud, those that are real but have been altered, usually by replacing the photo appearing on the passport. Passport fraud investigators refer to this as a photo-subbed passport. In the 1970s, it was fairly easy to photo-sub passports from most countries, but in the past couple of decades, many countries have taken great efforts to make this process more difficult. The use of high-tech laminates and now, in current U.S. passports, RFID chips that contain a photo that must match the one appearing on the passport make it far harder to photo-sub passports today. Of course, efforts to increase passport security haven’t always worked as planned.


In 1993, the State Department began issuing a new high-tech passport with a green cover that was supposed to be impossible to photo-sub. Within a few months of the first issuance of the passports, document vendors discovered that the laminate on the green passports could be easily removed by placing a block of dry ice on the passport, changing the photo and then pressing the laminate back down with an iron. Due to the ease of photo-subbing these passports, their value on the black market skyrocketed, and the “fraud proof” green passports had to be taken out of circulation after less than a year.




Finally, we have counterfeit passports, which are passports created from scratch by a document vendor. Like counterfeit currency, there is a vast range of quality when it comes to counterfeit passports, and as a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. On the streets of places like Bangkok, Hong Kong or New York, one can buy counterfeit passports from a wide array of countries. There is, however, a vast difference between the passport one can purchase for $100 and the one that can be purchased for $10,000. Also, like currency, some passport counterfeiters will even attempt to use elements of genuine passports, like the optically “dead” paper with little or no fluorescence used for the pages and the holographic laminates used on the photo pages. However, like photo-subbed passports, it is far more difficult to create a functional counterfeit passport today than it was several years ago. Not only does the passport have to be of high quality, but the number needs to correspond to the database of legitimately issued passports. Therefore, most counterfeit passports are useful for traveling in the third world but would not withstand the scrutiny of authorities in the developed world.




In spite of these problems, there is still a market for counterfeit and photo-subbed passports. While they may not be useful for traveling to a country like the United States or France, they can be used to travel from a place like Pakistan or China to a gateway country in the Western Hemisphere like Venezuela or a gateway country in Europe like Albania. Because of this, American and European passports still fetch a decent price on the black market and are frequently stolen from or sold by Westerners. Citizens of Western countries who travel to terrorist training camps are also frequently encouraged to “donate” their passports and other documents to the group that trains them. There are also many reports that Mossad makes use of the passports of foreign Jews who move to Israel and give their passports to the intelligence agency. Stolen or deliberately lost passports not only can be altered or cloned but also can be used for travel by people who physically resemble the original bearer, although once they are reported stolen or lost and entered into lookout databases, their utility declines.


A Shifting Focus




The difficulty in obtaining functional travel documents has affected the way criminal and terrorist organizations operate. With increasing scrutiny of travel documents, groups like al Qaeda have found it progressively more difficult to travel to the West. This is one of the factors that has led to their increasing use of operatives who have the ability to travel to where the planned attack is to be conducted, rather than sending a more professional terrorist operative to conduct the attack.


This difficulty in counterfeiting passports has even affected intelligence agencies, which are the best passport counterfeiters in the world. This is why we see intelligence agencies like Mossad having to clone passports — that is, create a counterfeit passport that bears the same name and number of a legitimate passport — or even resort to other types of fraud to obtain genuine passports for operatives. It has become difficult to fabricate a usable passport using a fictitious name. Mossad operatives have gotten in trouble for attempting to fraudulently obtain genuine passports in places like New Zealand. And Mossad is certainly not the only intelligence service experiencing this difficulty in obtaining documents for its operatives.


Because of these difficulties, intelligence agencies and militant and criminal organizations have begun to place increasing importance on recruiting assets involved in the issuance of identity documents. At an embassy, a consular officer is viewed as almost as important a person to recruit as a code clerk. A corrupt consular officer can make a great deal of money selling documents. But the threat can extend far from an overseas embassy. If an organization like the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or the Sinaloa cartel) can recruit an employee at the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics, they can arrange to have their agent occasionally issue a genuine birth certificate (camouflaged in a large stack of legitimately issued documents) in a fraudulent identity for their use. Likewise, if they can recruit a clerk at the Social Security office in Jersey City, they can get that agent to occasionally issue a Social Security number and card that corresponds to the birth certificate. These primary documents can then be used to obtain a driver’s license (the key identity document for living in the United States) and eventually a passport for international travel.




Of course, recruiting an agent who works inside an agency is not the only way to obtain identification documents. Several years ago, a cleaning company owned by a group of Nigerians placed a low bid on the contract to provide cleaning services to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Florida. Shortly after the company began providing services to the DMV, the agency suffered a rash of thefts across the state that included not only blank driver’s licenses and laminates but an entire machine that took the photos and processed the blank licenses.


The advent of cross-referencing databases, machine-readable passports routinely checked against such databases, radio frequency identification technology and procedures intended to prevent fraud have helped curtail many types of passport fraud. That said, passports are still required to travel for nefarious purposes, and these security measures have caused resourceful criminals, terrorists and intelligence agencies to shift their focus from technical methods of fraud toward exploiting humans in the process. In many places, the effort made to vet and monitor employees issuing documents is far less extensive than the effort made to physically protect documents from counterfeiting. The end result is that humans have become the weakest link in the equation.


"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Russian Spies and Strategic Intelligence



"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR"


July 13, 2010 | 0844 GMT


By George Friedman


The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:

That the Cold War is back,

That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable,

And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.


It is said that the world is global and interdependent. This makes it vital for a given nation to know three things about all of the nations with which it interacts.


First, it needs to know what other nations are capable of doing. Whether militarily, economically or politically, knowing what other nations are capable of narrows down those nations’ possible actions, eliminating fantasies and rhetoric from the spectrum of possible moves. Second, the nation needs to know what other nations intend to do. This is important in the short run, especially when intentions and capabilities match up. And third, the nation needs to know what will happen in other nations that those nations’ governments didn’t anticipate.


The more powerful a nation is, the more important it is to understand what it is doing. The United States is the most powerful country in the world. It therefore follows that it is one of the prime focuses of every country in the world. Knowing what the United States will do, and shifting policy based on that, can save countries from difficulties and even disaster. This need is not confined, of course, to the United States. Each country in the world has a list of nations that it is interdependent with, and it keeps an eye on those nations. These can be enemies, friends or just acquaintances. It is impossible for nations not to keep their eyes on other nations, corporations not to keep their eyes on other corporations and individuals not to keep their eyes on other people. How they do so varies; that they do so is a permanent part of the human condition. The shock at learning that the Russians really do want to know what is going on in the United States is, to say the least, overdone.


Russian Tradecraft Examined




Let’s consider whether the Russian spies were amateurish. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Soviets developed a unique model of espionage. They would certainly recruit government officials or steal documents. What they excelled at, however, was placing undetectable operatives in key positions. Soviet talent scouts would range around left-wing meetings to discover potential recruits. These would be young people with impeccable backgrounds and only limited contact with the left. They would be recruited based on ideology, and less often via money, sex or blackmail. They would never again be in contact with communists or fellow travelers. They would apply for jobs in their countries’ intelligence services, foreign or defense ministries, and so on. Given their family and academic backgrounds, they would be hired. They would then be left in place for 20 or 30 years while they rose in the ranks — and, on occasion, aided with bits of information from the Soviet side to move their careers ahead.


The Soviets understood that a recruited employee might be a double agent. But stealing information on an ad hoc basis was also risky, as the provenance of such material was always murky. Recruiting people who were not yet agents, creating psychological and material bonds over long years of management and allowing them to mature into senior intelligence or ministry officials allowed ample time for testing loyalty and positioning. The Soviets not only got more reliable information this way but also the ability to influence the other country’s decision-making. Recruiting a young man in the 1930s, having him work with the OSS and later the CIA, and having him rise to the top levels of the CIA — had that ever happened — would thus give the Soviets information and control.




These operations took decades, and Soviet handlers would spend their entire careers managing one career. There were four phases:

Identifying likely candidates,

Evaluating and recruiting them,

Placing them and managing their rise in the organization,

And exploiting them.


The longer the third phase took, the more effective the fourth phase would be.




It is difficult to know what the Russian team was up to in the United States from news reports, but there are two things we know about the Russians: They are not stupid, and they are extremely patient. If we were to guess — and we are guessing — this was a team of talent scouts. They were not going to meetings at the think tanks because they were interested in listening to the papers; rather, they were searching for recruits. These were people between the ages of 22 and 30, doing internships or entry level jobs, with family and academic backgrounds that would make employment in classified areas of the U.S. government easy — and who in 20 to 30 years would provide intelligence and control to Moscow.


In our view, the media may have conflated two of Moscow’s missions.


Twin Goals and the Espionage Challenge




One of the Russian operatives, Don Heathfield, once approached a STRATFOR employee in a series of five meetings. There appeared to be no goal of recruitment; rather, the Russian operative tried to get the STRATFOR employee to try out software he said his company had developed. We suspect that had this been done, our servers would be outputting to Moscow. We did not know at the time who he was. (We have since reported the incident to the FBI, but these folks were everywhere, and we were one among many.)


Thus, the group apparently included a man using software sales as cover — or as we suspect, as a way to intrude on computers. As discussed, the group also included talent scouts. We would guess that Anna Chapman was brought in as part of the recruitment phase of talent scouting. No one at STRATFOR ever had a chance to meet her, having apparently failed the first screening.


Each of the phases of the operatives’ tasks required a tremendous amount of time, patience and, above all, cover. The operatives had to blend in (in this case, they didn’t do so well enough). Russians have always had a tremendous advantage over Americans in this regard. A Russian long-term deployment took you to the United States, for example. Were the Americans to try the same thing, they would have to convince people to spend years learning Russian to near-native perfection and then to spend 20-30 years of their lives in Russia. Some would be willing to do so, but not nearly as many as there are Russians prepared to spend that amount of time in the United States or Western Europe.


The United States can thus recruit sources (and sometimes it gets genuine ones). It can buy documents. But the extremely patient, long-term deployments are very difficult for it. It doesn’t fit with U.S. career patterns or family expectations.




The United States has substituted technical intelligence for this process. Thus, the most important U.S. intelligence-collection agency is not the CIA; it is the National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA focuses on intercepting communications, penetrating computer networks, encryption and the like. (We will assume that they are successful at this.) So whereas the Russians seek to control the career of a recruit through retirement, the NSA seeks access to everything that is recorded electronically. The goal here is understanding capabilities and intentions. To the extent that the target is unaware of the NSA’s capabilities, the NSA does well. In many ways, this provides better and faster intelligence than the placement of agents, except that this does not provide influence.


The Intelligence Assumption


In the end, both the U.S. and Russian models — indeed most intelligence models — are built on the core assumption that the more senior the individual, the more knowledge he and his staff have. To put it more starkly, it assumes that what senior (and other) individuals say, write or even think reveals the most important things about the country in question. Thus, controlling a senior government official or listening to his phone conversations or e-mails makes one privy to the actions that country will take — thus allowing one to tell the future.




Let’s consider two cases: Iran in 1979 and the Soviet Union from 1989 to 1991. The fall of the Shah of Iran and the collapse of the Soviet empire were events of towering importance for the United States. Assume that the United States knew everything the shah’s senior officials and their staffs knew, wrote, or said in the period leading up to the Iranian Revolution. Or assume that the shah’s prime minister or a member of the Soviet Union’s Politburo was a long-term mole.


Either of those scenarios would not have made any difference to how events played out. This is because, in the end, the respective senior leadership didn’t know how events were going to play out. Partly this is because they were in denial, but mostly this is because they didn’t have the facts and they didn’t interpret the facts they did have properly. At these critical turning points in history, the most thorough penetration using either American or Russian techniques would have failed to provide warning of the change ahead. This is because the basic premise of the intelligence operation was wrong. The people being spied on and penetrated simply didn’t understand their own capabilities — i.e., the reality on the ground in their respective countries — and therefore their intentions about what to do were irrelevant and actually misleading.


In saying this, we must be very cautious, since obviously there are many instances in which targets of intelligence agencies do have valuable information and their decisions do actually represent what will happen. But if we regard anticipating systemic changes as one of the most important categories of intelligence, then these are cases where the targets of intelligence may well know the least and know it last. The Japanese knew they were going to hit Pearl Harbor, and having intelligence on that fact was enormously important. But that the British would collapse at Singapore was a fact not known to the British, so there would have been no way to obtain that information in advance from the British.


We started with three classes of intelligence: capabilities, intentions and what will actually happen. The first is an objective measure that can sometimes be seen directly but more frequently is obtained through data held by someone in the target country.

The most important issue is not what this data says but how accurate it is. Intentions, by contrast, represent the subjective plans of decision makers. History is filled with intentions that were never implemented, or that, when implemented, had wildly different outcomes than the decision maker expected. From our point of view, the most important aspect of this category is the potential for unintended consequences. For example, George W. Bush did not intend to get bogged down in a guerrilla war in Iraq. What he intended and what happened were two different things because his view of American and Iraqi capabilities were not tied to reality.




American and Russian intelligence is source-based. There is value in sources, but they need to be taken with many grains of salt, not because they necessarily lie but because the highest placed source may simply be wrong — and at times, an entire government can be wrong. If the purpose of intelligence is to predict what will happen, and it is source-based, then that assumes that the sources know what is going on and how it will play out. But often they don’t.


Russian and American intelligence agencies are both source-obsessed. On the surface, this is reasonable and essential. But it assumes something about sources that is frequently true, but not always — and in fact is only true with great infrequency on the most important issues. From our point of view, the purpose of intelligence is obvious: It is to collect as much information as possible, and surely from the most highly placed sources. But in the end, the most important question to ask is whether the most highly placed source has any clue as to what is going to happen.


Knowledge of what is being thought is essential. But gaming out how the objective and impersonal forces will interact and play out it is the most important thing of all. The focus on sources allows the universe of intelligence to be populated by the thoughts of the target. Sometimes that is of enormous value. But sometimes the most highly placed source has no idea what is about to happen. Sometimes it is necessary to listen to the tape of Gorbachev or Bush planning the future and recognize that what they think will happen and what is about to happen are very different things.


The events of the past few weeks show intelligence doing the necessary work of recruiting and rescuing agents. The measure of all of this activity is not whether one has penetrated the other side, but in the end, whether your intelligence organization knew what was going to happen and told you regardless of what well-placed sources believed. Sometimes sources are indispensable. Sometimes they are misleading. And sometimes they are the way an intelligence organization justifies being wrong.





Saturday, July 10, 2010

From the Archives 2: World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, 1992



The Following Statement, which came to my attention thanks to the same David Suzuki article I cited earlier, was obtained from the “Union of Concerned Scientists” website.


1992 World Scientist’s Warning to Humanity


Scientist Statement


Some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this appeal in November 1992. The World Scientists' Warning to Humanity was written and spearheaded by the late Henry Kendall, former chair of UCS's board of directors.


INTRODUCTION


Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.


THE ENVIRONMENT


The environment is suffering critical stress:


The Atmosphere


Stratospheric ozone depletion threatens us with enhanced ultraviolet radiation at the earth's surface, which can be damaging or lethal to many life forms. Air pollution near ground level, and acid precipitation, are already causing widespread injury to humans, forests, and crops.


Water Resources


Heedless exploitation of depletable ground water supplies endangers food production and other essential human systems. Heavy demands on the world's surface waters have resulted in serious shortages in some 80 countries, containing 40 percent of the world's population. Pollution of rivers, lakes, and ground water further limits the supply.


Oceans


Destructive pressure on the oceans is severe, particularly in the coastal regions which produce most of the world's food fish. The total marine catch is now at or above the estimated maximum sustainable yield. Some fisheries have already shown signs of collapse. Rivers carrying heavy burdens of eroded soil into the seas also carry industrial, municipal, agricultural, and livestock waste -- some of it toxic.


Soil


Loss of soil productivity, which is causing extensive land abandonment, is a widespread by-product of current practices in agriculture and animal husbandry. Since 1945, 11 percent of the earth's vegetated surface has been degraded -- an area larger than India and China combined -- and per capita food production in many parts of the world is decreasing.


Forests


Tropical rain forests, as well as tropical and temperate dry forests, are being destroyed rapidly. At present rates, some critical forest types will be gone in a few years, and most of the tropical rain forest will be gone before the end of the next century. With them will go large numbers of plant and animal species.


Living Species


The irreversible loss of species, which by 2100 may reach one-third of all species now living, is especially serious. We are losing the potential they hold for providing medicinal and other benefits, and the contribution that genetic diversity of life forms gives to the robustness of the world's biological systems and to the astonishing beauty of the earth itself. Much of this damage is irreversible on a scale of centuries, or permanent. Other processes appear to pose additional threats. Increasing levels of gases in the atmosphere from human activities, including carbon dioxide released from fossil fuel burning and from deforestation, may alter climate on a global scale. Predictions of global warming are still uncertain -- with projected effects ranging from tolerable to very severe -- but the potential risks

are very great.


Our massive tampering with the world's interdependent web of life -- coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change -- could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.


Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency or delay in facing the threats.


POPULATION


The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.


Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth. A World Bank estimate indicates that world population will not stabilize at less than 12.4 billion, while the United Nations concludes that the eventual total could reach 14 billion, a near tripling of today's 5.4 billion. But, even at this moment, one person in five lives in absolute poverty without enough to eat, and one in ten suffers serious malnutrition.


No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished.


WARNING


We the undersigned, senior members of the world's scientific community, hereby warn all humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.


WHAT WE MUST DO


Five inextricably linked areas must be addressed simultaneously:


We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth's systems we depend on.


We must, for example, move away from fossil fuels to more benign, inexhaustible energy sources to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our air and water. Priority must be given to the development of energy sources matched to Third World needs -- small-scale and relatively easy to implement.


We must halt deforestation, injury to and loss of agricultural land, and the loss of terrestrial and marine plant and animal species.


We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively.


We must give high priority to efficient use of energy, water, and other materials, including expansion of conservation and recycling.



We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.


We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.


We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.


DEVELOPED NATIONS MUST ACT NOW


The developed nations are the largest polluters in the world today. They must greatly reduce their overconsumption, if we are to reduce pressures on resources and the global environment. The developed nations have the obligation to provide aid and support to developing nations, because only the developed nations have the financial resources and the technical skills for these tasks.


Acting on this recognition is not altruism, but enlightened self-interest: whether industrialized or not, we all have but one lifeboat. No nation can escape from injury when global biological systems are damaged. No nation can escape from conflicts over increasingly scarce resources. In addition, environmental and economic instabilities will cause mass migrations with incalculable consequences for developed and undeveloped nations alike.

Developing nations must realize that environmental damage is one of the gravest threats they face, and that attempts to blunt it will be overwhelmed if their populations go unchecked. The greatest peril is to become trapped in spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest, leading to social, economic, and environmental collapse.


Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war -- amounting to over $1 trillion annually -- will be badly needed in the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges.


A new ethic is required -- a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recognize the earth's limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.


The scientists issuing this warning hope that our message will reach and affect people everywhere. We need the help of many.


We require the help of the world community of scientists -- natural, social, economic, and political.


We require the help of the world's business and industrial leaders.


We require the help of the world's religious leaders.


We require the help of the world's peoples.


We call on all to join us in this task.


©2010 Union of Concerned Scientists


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