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News Link • Surveillance

Is The FBI Using Afghanistan As A Biometrics Proving Ground?

Formally established in late 2009 to collect the fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images of Afghan national security forces, the program’s initial goal was to keep criminals and Taliban insurgents from infiltrating the army and police force. But information sharing—with partners like the FBI—is also a key component of the program. “The FBI has collected thousands of latent prints from the battlefield in Afghanistan,” said Special Agent Janeen DiGuiseppi, our liaison officer in Kabul for the biometrics program. “When the Afghans started enrolling people, we began to cross-check our records with theirs.” In fact, when they searched their database, the Afghans identified the 82nd unidentified latent print the FBI passed to them and found that it belonged to an individual they had arrested a few months before as an accessory to a crime. The individual’s prints had originally been collected in 2007 in connection with a different crime. “We were able to give the Afghans information to help them prosecute the case,” DiGuiseppi said. “That’s exactly the kind of information exchange we are looking for—going both ways. It helps solve crimes, and it enhances security for Afghans and Americans in the war theater.” The biometric program answers two basic questions, said Air Force Lt. Col. Cristiano Marchiori, an advisor to the program: “Who are you, and are you a bad guy?”

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