FBI expanding access to fingerprint database

The FBI is ready to move out of the test stage in sharing fingerprint data with other agencies.

Tom Bush, assistant director at the bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) office, today said the FBI is going forward on all fronts to extend access to its Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) database to the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments.

Bush, who spoke at a lunch in Washington sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council, said civilian agencies account for about 54 percent of the checks against IAFIS. He also said with the interoperability success, CJIS hopes to expand the intelligence community’s use of the databases.

Bush said IAFIS was built to do about 62,000 fingerprint checks a day, but it is handling more than 115,000 a day. He said that is the main reason the FBI is upgrading IAFIS to the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. Industry submitted proposals earlier this month, and Bush said an award is expected by December.

NGI will be a multimodal system that will address FBI and law enforcement needs in addition to DOD and intelligence community requirements.

“We need a scalable, flexible standard operating system,” Bush said. “It will use iris recognition as well as fingerprints.”

NGI also will access the National Palm Print system and the Interstate Photo System, Bush said.

But until NGI is implemented, the FBI will continue to integrate IAFIS and DHS’ IDENT system and expand access to IAFIS.

Bush said State will begin using IAFIS in all its consulates and embassies worldwide by Dec. 31. The department has been pilot testing the system in 12 locations since October 2006. During about the past two years, State has processed more than 268,000 fingerprints and found more than 1,300 people using a false identity.

Bush said the FBI integrated the Known Suspected Terrorist list into IAFIS this month, and that will be an important part of an international information exchange the bureau is working on called Server in the Sky.

The Server in the Sky program is just getting started, he said.

“We currently trade fingerprints with international partners on paper,” Bush said. “The plan is to put only biometric information in the server with a unique identifier to address security and privacy concerns.”

The FBI has proposed three data types for the initiative, including internationally recognized terrorists and felons, major felons from each country and terrorists with and without convictions, and suspected terrorists or felons.

The initial countries may include the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, and Bush said the bureau would like the pilot to start in mid-2008.

The FBI and DHS are pilot testing this concept through the interim data-sharing model.

“We would have a database of the worst of the worst terrorists that we would all access, and then the other data would be accessed through a shared-service approach,” he said.

Bush also said the FBI will begin merging the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) system with its UNet — both are Internet service providers for law enforcement agencies.

LEO also will likely serve as a way for officers to access N-Dex — the law enforcement national data exchange project.

Bush said the first capabilities of N-Dex should be launched in February.

“We are looking for wireless capabilities for LEO and will have to redo our data center,” he said in describing the FBI’s upcoming priorities. “We also are looking at how to expand two-factor authentication to our end users.”

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