Homeland Security Today Magazine (March 2010) has an interesting article called “Biometrics on the Battlefield" about how the American military has had significant success in Afghanistan taking biometrics and in using it for “vetting, tracking, and identification.”
Here’s how it’s done:
The biometrics system uses HIIDE (Handheld Interagency Identity Detection System) devices, which is “similar in size to a large camera, [that] connects directly to the BATS [Biometrics Automated Tool Set] database and matches inputs against a biometrics watch list of 10,000 individuals.”
The database “BATS uses a combination of fingerprints, photographs and iris scans, in addition to an in-depth background examination” to “screen potential local employees, identify detainees, and differentiate friendly individuals from insurgents and terrorists.”
How successful has the use of biometrics been?
“The use of biometrics has clearly thwarted security breaches and helped prevent unwanted activities by the enemy. Additionally, in 2008 alone, hundreds of HVTs (high value targets) were identified through the use of this biometrics technology.”
The article suggests the application of this biometric system for domestic law enforcement use.
Currently, fingerprint cards or stationary scanners are common, but with the proposed military biometrics system, there is the technology potential to use mobile scanning devices quickly and easily in the field.
The article gives the example: “if an officer came into contact with an individual under suspect conditions, a simple scan of the iris would ascertain that person’s status as a convicted felon, convicted violent felon, convicted sex offender or someone on whom an alert has been placed.”
In this scenario, quicker and more accurate identification of suspects could not only aid in dealing with dangerous offenders and benefit the officers in terms of their personal safety, but also contribute to ensuring community safety and security through enhanced enforcement capabilities.
Of course, using such a system for law enforcement would have to pass legal muster including applicable privacy concerns, but as the author, Godfrey Garner, a retired special forces officer, states “hopefully, this valuable technology will be recognized and properly utilized to protect law enforcement officer in the United States. I know that I’ve seen it protect our sons and daughters on the battlefields of Afghanistan.”
We are living in an amazing time of technology advances, and the potential to save lives and increase public safety and security through lawful use of biometrics is a hopeful advancement for all.