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    New York Times: Afghanistan Has Big Plans for Biometric Data

    The New York Times reports on plans by the Afghanistan government concerning the biometric data of residents and visitors to the country:

    Since September, Afghanistan has been the only country in the world to fingerprint and photograph all travelers who pass through Kabul International Airport, arriving and departing.

    A handful of other countries fingerprint arriving foreigners, but no country has ever sought to gather biometric data on everyone who comes and goes, whatever their nationality. Nor do Afghan authorities plan to stop there: their avowed goal is to fingerprint, photograph and scan the irises of every living Afghan.

    It is a goal heartily endorsed by the American military, which has already gathered biometric data on two million Afghans who have been encountered by soldiers on the battlefield, or who have just applied for a job with the coalition military or its civilian contractors.

    The Kabul airport program is also financed by the United States, with money and training provided by the American Embassy. Americans, like all other travelers, are subject to it. […]

    The United States and Japan fingerprint all foreigners on arrival; South Korea plans to start doing so in January. (Brazil retaliated against the American program by fingerprinting arriving Americans only.) Officials at the American Embassy declined to comment specifically on the program; a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security denied it had anything to do with it. […]

    Gathering the data does not stop at Afghanistan’s borders, however, since the military shares all of the biometrics it collects with the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security through interconnected databases.

    Even the civilian-run airport program collecting fingerprints and photographs feeds its information into computers at the American Embassy, as well as at the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, according to Mohammad Yaqub Rasuli, the head of the Kabul International Airport. […]

    There have been some signs of Afghan sensitivities as well. A military-financed program to gather biometric data in the city of Kandahar in 2010, during the push to control insurgency there, was so unpopular that President Hamid Karzai promised local elders to have it canceled, which it was, according to Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the governor in Kandahar Province.

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