The US pushes frontier biometrics
Washington (USA) – The US administration does not stop on the biometric border control front and on the contrary relaunches: one year after the start of the experimentation that aroused so much attention, the Government has announced a substantial expansion of electronic monitoring infrastructures .
The 50 most frequented land access points, both from Canada and Mexico, have been equipped with those devices that allow the border police to infiltrate the federal database the data of those who enter the country .
In particular, the system, already adopted on an experimental basis, is based on digital photography of faces, whose characteristic features are recorded in order to be subsequently compared, and on index mapping of both hands . The idea is that by crossing these different biometric registrations, misidentifications can be almost completely reduced.
The news was announced by the officials of the Department for Homeland Security, a division created in the aftermath of September 11, which has the specific task of remedying those holes in the security systems that the bloody attacks of 2001 brought to light.
According to what has been declared, in the last year the biometric identification systems have allowed border authorities to reject or arrest 372 individuals on nearly 17 million checks. These are people who in many cases were wanted for federal crimes, mostly related to illegal immigration. Among them also escapees and people convicted of robbery or other violent crimes. The fact that in no case has there been an arrest linked to terrorist activities, however, is not read as a failure to achieve the primary objective but rather as a success for the proper functioning of the system.
According to Asa Hutchinson, the now famous undersecretary who leads border security for the Department, the so-called US-Visit (which stands for “US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology”) has in fact become “the standard of excellence in terms of safety and convenience”. The convenience is linked by the Department to the fact that with the new systems, waiting times for entry have in some cases dropped by 50 or 60 percent.
By the end of this year it is expected that even the most remote US borders will be manned by the new biometric systems , as will happen for 115 airports and 15 seaports. It must be said that today there are few Mexicans and Canadians who are “scrutinized” by the new apparatuses, which instead focus on Asian and South American immigrants as well as on European immigrants from countries where a visa is required for access to the USA.
Either way, Hutchinson doesn’t intend to stop there. In the midst of the experiment, last January, the American official has indeed begun to push for the creation of a large one federal database of foreigners , a pharaonic project to be developed over the next ten years to bring together financial, biometric and police data and dynamically integrate them into border control activities. A project that is believed to cost at least $ 10 billion if carried out by the administration.
However, not everyone is convinced that US-Visit is what Hutchinson claims. Moira Whelan, a Democratic member of the Parliamentary Commission that oversees the Department’s activities, has just in these hours stressed that the entire program has so far weighed on the country’s coffers for 700 million dollars without, in her opinion, achieve goals. “At the end of the day – she told the Los Angeles Times – one wonders: ok we are spending all this money but the terrorists are being identified and arrested?”