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US-VISIT Advances in Biometrics Tighten Border Security

Author: Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow
January 5, 2012
Adfero Group

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US-VISIT gave its 8th annual briefing at its headquarters in Rosslyn Thursday afternoon, and the progress there continues to be impressive. While the advances in biometrics raise some delicate privacy questions, the United States is getting ever closer to creating a system in which it will be more or less impossible to lie one's way into this country through the legal ports of entry. And more and more countries – sixty-one at last count – are going down the same road of using biometrics for border control.

Three headlines from the excellent briefing by US-VISIT Director Bob Mocny:

1) DHS has pilot-tested, and by the end of 2012 will have rolled out to all entry ports, a new "rapid response" capability that automatically checks the fingerprints of incoming travelers against the FBI's full data base of fingerprints. That means that anyone with an arrest record in the U.S. will be identified when trying to enter the country. This is an enormous expansion of capability. Fingerprints collected under US-VISIT are currently checked against a watch list of known and suspected terrorists and serious criminals that contains about 6 million identities. The FBI data base holds 67 million identities, a 10-fold increase.

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