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CSI bin Laden: Commandos Use Thumb, Eye Scans to Track Terrorists

• Spencer Ackerman via
The U.S. forces who killed Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad compound were more than expert marksmen. Some of them were forensics experts as well, using sophisticated tools to ensure that they got the right man.

Speaking at a White House briefing, counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said he had “99 percent” certainty the commando team killed bin Laden, thanks to “facial recognition, [his] height, [and] an initial DNA analysis.”

The initial DNA analysis appears to have been done far from the scene, by “CIA and other specialists in the intelligence community” on Monday, according to an intelligence official who briefed Pentagon reporters, and it returned a “virtually 100 percent DNA match.”

Press reports say the DNA used to identify bin Laden may have come from one of his sisters, who allegedly died at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. (However, hospital spokeswoman Katie Marquedant wouldn’t confirm this, telling Danger Room, “We have no information at all.”)

But according to a senior Defense Department official, chances are they used the tool pictured above to verify his biometric information. The device is called a Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit, or SEEK, a handheld biometrics recorder that takes iris scans, fingerprints and facial scans and ports them back to an FBI database in West Virginia in seconds.

“We’ve always said this is about more than finding people in a crowd,” said the senior defense official, who requested anonymity to talk about the CSI-like gear that Special Operations Forces carry. The latest version, developed by a company called Crossmatch, is known as SEEK II, and it came out last year. It weighs less than 4 pounds, and its ability to send information back to the FBI database is “wham-bam,” even from low-connectivity areas.

To pull that off, SEEK II has built-in wireless capability and optional 3G to push or pull biometric info from the database. If that doesn’t work, USB ports connect SEEK to other computers. The device runs on Windows XP.


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