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The Federal Bureau of Investigation announces its intention to create a stronger, better, faster database using biometric data

Biometrics is already something of a buzz word, with more and more of its applications in places like train stations, airports and even Walt Disney World.  Governmental agencies borrowed the word as of late for more interesting projects: identifying people based on intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.

The FBI in particular is no exception, the agency plans to award a 10-year contract with a one billion dollar tab to expand the quantity and quality of its biometric data.

Biometric information can include many things such as fingerprints, palm prints, iris and corneal scans, facial structure, noticeable markings, stride and even innocuous personal behavior like typing rhythm and mouse gestures. The project, dubbed Next Generation Identification (NGI), is set to gather all types of bio-data and store in one location for identification and forensics purposes.

The database would be accessible by many law enforcement and government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which already uses iris scans at airports to allow people who have passed background checks to move through airport security more quickly; and the Defense Department, which has been collecting data on Iraqi and Afghan detainees for the past two years.

The database could be used to identify known or suspected criminals or terrorists by matching facial structure, iris scans or the gait of walk via cameras in places of interest like bus stations or airports. The eventual goal will be to identify threats in real-time without human intervention.

Detractors to the FBI's plans claim that such a database has many pitfalls. Gathered data, if incorrect or stolen, could prove a serious problem for ordinary citizens that become victims of the system's imperfections.

The new database differs from the TALON database forced out of operation last September.  Whereas TALON stored data on individuals as reported by field officers, NGI's data will largely stem from autonomous data acquisition sources -- like cameras and sensors.  However, data from NGI will be used in conjunction with entries in the Bureau's Guardian Threat Tracking System; a database that took over TALON's entries after its demise.

"It's going to be an essential component of tracking. It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in a Washington Post article last week.

While the idea does ring of an Orwellian society, agencies like the Department of Homeland Security would benefit from such an overt system, should it work as planned. The FBI is working with the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR) to make live scanning a reality. CITeR is working on scanning processes that would be able to identify a person by iris scan at up to 15 feet and face-shape by 200 yards. The Center will begin to work with the FBI on biometric research in the near future.

Voicing in on access and privacy concerns, Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division stated "we have very stringent laws that control who can go in there and to secure the data." Presently over 900,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers have access to the FBI's fingerprint database. The number could increase as more agencies and officials gain access to the growing biometrics database.

More than just privacy advocates have shown disdain for the database.  A recent study in Germany using facial recognition technology garnered a 60 percent matches success rate during optimal lighting conditions. The accuracy plummeted as low as 10 percent in low-light situations. The German law-enforcement agency tolerated a false positive rate of 0.1 percent, or 23 people of the roughly 23,000 that passed through the train station where the study was done.

Homeland security and false identification of criminals aside, the system could have other merits if used by other federal and state institutions like hospitals and missing persons units. Various biometric data could be used to identify victims of crimes, along with possible evidence towards their culprits, or to find missing or runaway children who might happen to pass through an area with an active scanning system.

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RE: Monitor yourselves FBI
By BansheeX on 12/27/2007 8:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
There's a difference, but it doesn't matter. Events that occur over seas have a clear impact on the United States.

The future is completely unknown and unpredictable no matter what action you take. You can look at the past and it's a lot easier to predict or play out different scenarios when you already have one that's played out for the worse. That's why it's wrong to blame non-interventionism for eventual threats or other country's inadequate defenses.

That said, intervention has probably led to more bad than good. For example, we can be fairly certain now that Hitler would have never existed if we hadn't intervened in WWI. Iran probably wouldn't be so extremist if the CIA hadn't forced our hand in their affairs. And in your defense, for all we know, Putin staying in power will lead to another Russian civil war. Only in the future will we know if we should have taken him out now. It's really an impossible strategy to follow because it relies on so much assumption and paranoia. If my neighbor seems angry with me, should I kill him to prevent the possibility of him going postal on my family the next day? Probably not, although if it happens everyone will have the hindsight to say I should have.

However, what if we'd had the foresight that those Bolsheviks were some bad-ass individuals, which many people recognized, and sacrificed, say, 100,000 men to stopping them?

According to wikipedia:

"During the Allied Intervention, the military presence of foreign troops was effectively used for patriotic propaganda by the Bolsheviks in their struggle to influence the population and win the Civil War."

So really, how do you know that non-intervention and all-out war wouldn't have both yielded a white army victory? We don't. All we know is the result of slight intervention, and you are thus selfishly assuming that all-out war would have yielded a certain, more desirable result. In reality nobody has a clue what that other conflicts that decision may or not have created.

Do I have to hold your hand and remind you of the number of people killed under various communist regimes, assasinations and suppression that is ongoing, and the total cost of the Cold War not just in dollars but in lives through it's various proxy wars?

You're resorting to fear and selective hindsight to justify your position. Yes, bad things have happened and will happen around the world regardless of what we do. You should realize though that no one knows the future in order to assume that intervention is more often than not going to result in a lesser overall deathtoll or a safer future for us and our families here at home. And no American should feel cowardly for not wanting to sacrifice themselves or their liberty for any other reason than an immediate and reducable threat to that life or liberty. Hitler and Osama were justifiable intervention (despite our own idiotic failure to prevent the latter), but Iraq, Korea, Chechnya, Kosovo, Vietnam, all make no sense, especially when there are so many methods of prevention we still fail to exercise or improve upon here (more secure borders, no bases in holy land, smarter defense spending etc). We have a tendency to let other countries' extremists use our occupation and manipulation of their resources as a recruiting device. Pretty soon we won't have a choice but to be non-interventionist because our economy is a debt-based mirage that is about to cascade in on itself, all in the name of this interventionist strategy.

Ron Paul and isolationists are just too weak to put in an upfront investment on something that may not visibly show rewards.

The only cowards are the ones who manipulate the media and send other Americans over to die under irrational pretenses. Ron Paul is a hero in my book. Non-interventionist, yes. Isolationist, no. He's right on the money with everything else you've said. Maybe you should give his foreign policy a the benefit of the doubt.

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