FBI asks U.K., other countries to participate in U.S. terror database

Published 17 January 2008

The FBI’s Server in the Sky project would allow countries to search and swap biometric data on some of the world’s most wanted criminals; project is similar to the EU’s Prüm Treaty

The FBI said a proposed security database called the Server in the Sky (critics suggest replacing “Server” with a certain baked dish) was still being designed. When it is active, it would allow countries to search and swap data such as fingerprints, genetic information, and iris scans on some of the world’s most wanted criminals. AP’s Raphael Satter reports that

the FBI said the database would hold information on “the world’s worst of the worst individuals.” In the addition to the United Kingdom, the FBI has approached Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to participate in the project.

Britain’s National Police Improvement Agency, which has discussed the project with the FBI, said it was too early to say whether Britain would participate. “There was a discussion last year,” a spokesman for the agency said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with agency policy. “That was it. There’s no specific discussions on timescales or how it would be delivered. We’ve got no plans to do anything at this time.”

Britain’s Home Office and London’s Metropolitan Police said they were aware of the project but refused to go into any detail. The FBI did not immediately return a call requesting comment. Britain has already agreed to give its European allies access to much of its biometric information. EU nations completed a plan last year to share databases containing fingerprints, genetic information and license plate numbers. That data-sharing deal, known as the Prüm Treaty, is intended to automate information-sharing and do away with time consuming data requests. The system is online in Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Finland, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Austria, and Luxembourg. Last year the German interior minister suggested the measures could be extended to the United States as part of a world-wide effort to track terror suspects and wanted criminals.