DHS expands biometric use

Biometric programs should be expanded to fight terrorism and crime, a Homeland Security Department official said today.

However, privacy protections should be kept in mind during that effort, said Asa Hutchinson, DHS' undersecretary for border and transportation security. Hutchinson spoke at the Biometric Consortium Conference in Arlington, Va. "We do not want to give the terrorists a victory by [restricting] our normal patterns of behavior," Hutchinson said.

Members of the 9/11 Commission recommended biometric screening for visitors to the United States. Hutchinson highlighted DHS programs that use biometric technology, including the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program; the Transportation Security Administration's Registered Traveler program; and TSA's Transportation Worker Identification Card.

"Biometrics is at the forefront in our agenda for homeland security," he said.

Registered Traveler allows frequent fliers to move through airport security checkpoints more quickly using a smart card with a biometric component, such as a fingerprint or iris scan. Meanwhile, US-VISIT requires foreign visitors going through major U.S. airports or seaports to have fingerprint technology and photographs attached to their visas.

Biometric programs must have unified information, Hutchinson said. "We have to maintain a single identity for each individual the Department of Homeland Security encounters," he said.

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