Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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The FBI, a Spanish lawmaker and bin Laden

 The FBI leaves a Spanish minister of parliament wondering why his picture was incorporated into a wanted poster of an international terrorist.

From the “Just what the @#!!*&# were they thinking?” department comes this story about how the FBI, lacking good sources for some of the uber-terrorist’s facial features, decided those of a Spanish member of parliament would be good enough.

According to the Associated Press, the FBI put together a wanted poster of Osama bin Laden based on age-progressed images from those they had of him at an earlier date. Except they were missing what someone thought were good examples of such things as hair and facial wrinkles.

A picture of Gaspar Llamazares, former head of Spain’s United Left coalition, was available on the Internet, so they used his features. But they forgot to ask Llamazares. Imagine the shock when the Spanish MP was informed, and there part of he was (part of him, anyway), pictured as one of the world’s most wanted villains.

It would be laughable except that, as Llamazares himself pointed out, those are exactly the kinds of things that authorities use in biometric recognition systems. Llamazares could be facing a torrid time of questions and searches at airports and other travel points.

A Daily Telegraph story says the FBI claims “cutting edge” technology is used for the pics, which are displayed on the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Web site. But now you have to wonder.

The question we have to ask is whether this was a one-off on the part of the FBI, or was it standard practice? If so, how many other innocent people's features are out there?

Personally, most of my Internet pics come off looking like mug shots anyway. I don’t need the FBI to emphasize the point.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Jan 19, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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