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[infowar.de] WSJ 30.10.02: U.S. Military Builds Database Of Terror Suspects' Features
Wall Street Journal
October 30, 2002
U.S. Military Builds Database Of Terror Suspects' Features
By Jim Krane, Associated Press
The U.S. is compiling digital dossiers of the irises, fingerprints, faces
and voices of terrorism suspects and using the information to track their
movements and screen foreigners trying to enter the country.
Since January, military and intelligence operatives have collected the
identifying data on prisoners in Afghanistan and at the U.S. naval base in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are also plans to extend the collection process
to Iraq in the event of a U.S. invasion.
With this project, the U.S. government has taken biometrics -- the
measuring of human features -- well beyond its most common use to date:
verifying people's identities before giving them access to computers or
"We're trying to collect every biometric on every bad guy that we can,"
said Lt. Col. Kathy De Bolt, deputy director of the Army battle lab at Fort
Huachuca, Ariz., where the biometric tools being used were developed.
"Any place we go into -- Iraq or wherever -- we're going to start building
a dossier on people of interest to intelligence. Even if they get released,
we have face and voice clips. When they come into one of our checkpoints,
we can say, 'You're this bad guy from here,'" she said.
In biometrics, optical, thermal and audio scanners are used to record a
person's features. Mathematical algorithms are then used to reduce that
information to digital data. Some biometrics are more reliable than others.
For example, the intricate patterns in the iris, the colored part of the
eye, are considered better identifiers than even fingerprints.
The U.S. biometric system, known as the Biometrics Automated Toolset, or
BAT, includes about 50 laptop computers equipped with scanners. The
information on suspects is stored in a central database at a U.S.
intelligence agency -- Ms. De Bolt declined to say which one -- in the
An additional 400 laptops are being prepared for a possible Iraq invasion,
said Anthony Iasso, a software engineer at Northrop Grumman Corp. who leads
the project at Fort Huachuca.
So far, BAT data has been shared with both the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to help check
the identities of incoming foreigners and of foreigners arrested inside the
U.S., officials said.
"Anytime anyone is taken into custody for investigation by INS, they're
checked against this system," said a U.S. immigration official, speaking on
condition of anonymity. He wouldn't say whether the data has led to any
Ms. De Bolt and Mr. Iasso said the BAT system aims to track the global
movements of terrorists.
If a person catalogued and released in Afghanistan later turns up at a
checkpoint in the Philippines -- perhaps using a different identity --
officials might begin investigating the suspect's background and links to
others, Ms. De Bolt said. The suspect doesn't have to be apprehended,
fingerprinted, or even identified by name.
U.S. authorities are supplementing the dossiers by adding surveillance
photos and fingerprints gathered from, say, drinking glasses or magazine
covers found in terrorist haunts. A suspect's dossier might also contain
text from prisoner interrogations, video or sound clips and digital images
of scanned items seized during a search, Mr. Iasso said.
The database can also be searched by soldiers via satellite telephone from
a battlefield, Ms. De Bolt said.
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