Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FBI Fingerprinting Reveals That Many Foreign Terrorists Have Lived in the U.S.

After 9-11, the FBI began to fingerprint terrorists in the Middle East and learned that many of them have lived in or visited the United States. The FBI (6-27-05) has a story about their program here.

Fox News (7-8-08) reports about what the FBI has learned here.

The Dallas Morning News (7-6-08) carries an article from the Washington Post:

In the 6 ½ years that the U.S. government has been fingerprinting insurgents, detainees and ordinary people in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, hundreds have turned out to share an unexpected background, FBI and military officials said. They have criminal arrest records in the United States.

...The records suggest that potential enemies abroad know a great deal about the United States because many of them have lived here, officials said. The matches also reflect the power of sharing data across agencies and even countries, data that links an identity to a distinguishing human characteristic such as a fingerprint.

"I found the number stunning," said Frances Fragos Townsend, a security consultant and former assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. "It suggested to me that this was going to give us far greater insight into the relationships between individuals fighting against U.S. forces in the theater and potential U.S. cells or support networks here in the United States."

The fingerprinting of detainees overseas began as ad-hoc FBI and U.S. military efforts shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has since grown into a government-wide push to build the world's largest database of known or suspected terrorist fingerprints.

The effort is being boosted by a presidential directive signed June 5, which gave the U.S. attorney general and other cabinet officials 90 days to come up with a plan to expand the use of biometrics by, among other things, recommending categories of people to be screened beyond "known or suspected" terrorists.

Fingerprints are being beamed in via satellite from places as far-flung as the jungles of Zamboanga in the southern Philippines; Bogota, Colombia; Iraq; and Afghanistan. Other allies, such as Sweden, have contributed prints. The database can be queried by U.S. government agencies and by other countries through Interpol, the international police agency.

...Many of those with U.S. arrest records had come to the United States to study, said former Criminal Justice Information Services head Michael Kirkpatrick, who led the FBI effort to use biometrics in counterterrorism after Sept. 11. [Full text]

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