HSNW conversation with James Loudermilk of the FBIBiometrics proves 1 percent of applicants to enter U.S. are unsuitable

Published 27 June 2012

Chris Archer, the online content editor at IDGA (the Institute for Defense & Government Advancement), talked with James Loudermilk, Senior Level Technologist, FBI Science and Technology Branch, about biometrics and biometrics and homeland security; Loudermilk says that biometrics applications helped the FBI determine that about 1 percent of people who seek visa to visit the United States as tourists have previously done things that make them unsuitable guests; the conversation examines the application of biometrics for homeland security, issues relating to privacy and civil liberties, and what can be learned from international biometrics projects, including India’s UID scheme

Chris Archer: Can you give us some examples of how biometrics and identity management are being used for homeland security?

James Loudermilk: If I may, Chris, I’d like to provide a little bit of context. The effort that I’m going to be talking about at the conference [IDGA’s Biometrics & Identity Management Summit]was done under the sponsorship of the biometrics and identity management subcommittee of the National Technology Counsel. That subcommittee was actually created as a part of the national response to the tragic events of 9/11. At that particular point in time we didn’t have a lot of interoperability between the major national systems. The Border Protection and Management system that Homeland Security operates didn’t talk to the National Criminal History fingerprint system that the FBI has. The State Department had some interoperability with Homeland Security but not with the FBI and at that point in time the Department of Defense didn’t have a biometrics system. A few years later, at the time that we did the initial challenge, there was a DOD system and it was fully operational with the FBI and homeland security was much more fully operational with the State Department, they actually had added photos to the Consular Consolidated Database, but still the FBI and Homeland Security didn’t talk to one another, that didn’t start until late 2006.

Now fast-forward to the current timeframe and you find the Coast Guard using biometrics at sea as a part of interdiction efforts in the Mona Pass. You see the military heavily using biometrics both to protect the force and identify IED makers and other people who attack our forces, and you see that today in Afghanistan and not that long ago in Iraq, and we have found in the interaction and interoperation of these systems that a significant number of people encountered on the battlefield, about 1 percent, actually have criminal histories that they acquired years prior when they were in the United States. We’ve been able to determine that about 1 percent of people who seek visas to visit the United States as tourists have previously done things that do not make them suitable guests in our country, so we’ve been able to keep criminals and terrorists outside of the United States who otherwise might have come here as tourists or on another basis. We’ve identified significant number of serious criminals at border crossing points, and materially made