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The Biometric Gulag: FBI Center Takes On $1 Billion ID Project

The Clarksburg FBI complex is taking part in a $1 billion project that will enable law enforcement agencies to identify criminals and terrorists by physical characteristics more quickly and accurately, an FBI official said Monday in Charleston. Earlier this month, the FBI center unveiled its "Next Generation Identification System," which will slowly replace an older system that can no longer handle the volume of fingerprints sent to Clarksburg. "It's bigger, better, faster," said Stephen Morris, a deputy assistant director at the FBI Center. "It increases capacity and accuracy." Morris spoke Monday at a Charleston Rotary Club luncheon at the Civic Center. The NGI system, built by Lockheed Martin, allows FBI employees to conduct automated fingerprint searches and exchange information with more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies. The FBI's fingerprint examining staff also received new "advanced technology workstations" that will help increase accuracy, Morris said. Under the system, state and local police officers also will eventually use hand-held devices to scan suspects' fingerprints and send the images electronically to the FBI center. "It's a quick scan to let police officers know if they should let the person go, or take him into custody," Morris said. In later stages, NGI system also will be expanded to include the analysis of palm prints, handwriting, faces, human irises and voices.

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