Biometric system working in Afghanistan

July 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- U.S. military officials say biometrics have become a useful battlefield tool in Iraq and Afghanistan but may be facing legal and other challenges.

The system that records information on people using eye scans, fingerprints and facial images is being set up by the U.S. military in Afghanistan working with local authorities, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Sgt. Maj. Robert Haemmerle of the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 told the Times suspects can shave off their beards but that won't change their basic biometric profile.

The military has already collected information on more than 1.5 million Afghans, or one of every six males of fighting age, in databases operated by NATO and Afghan forces, with only occasional complaints, the Times said.

The program came in handy for Afghan officials in recapturing some of the 475 prison inmates who escaped through a tunnel from a large prison in southern Afghanistan in April.

The Times said in Iraq about 2.2 million people have been similarly registered. Biometrics of all detainees and those applying for government jobs or seeking any kind of government service are registered.

The system allows checks on millions of identification files in a matter of seconds using hand-held devices available to security forces.

U.S. Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, commander of the military's new Rule of Law Field Force in Afghanistan, said precautions need to be taken to keep the information from being abused.

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