Thursday, December 30, 2004

U.S. Border Fingerprint Data Faulted

U.S. Border Fingerprint Data Faulted
From Associated Press

December 30, 2004

WASHINGTON — More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has failed to create a unified U.S. fingerprint database because of agency infighting, meaning most visitors to the country still aren't fully screened for terrorist or criminal ties, the Justice Department's watchdog warned Wednesday.

The continued bureaucratic clashing, which the Bush administration pledged to end after the attacks, is causing serious delays in solving the problem. In his fourth report about the situation, Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said it "creates a risk that a terrorist could enter the country undetected."

Despite some improvement, the Justice, State and Homeland Security departments are at an impasse over such basic issues as whether two or 10 fingers should be printed at U.S. borders and which law enforcement agencies should have access to immigration information.

"Progress toward the longer-term goal of making all biometric fingerprint systems fully inter-operable has stalled," Fine's report concluded.

Without an integrated system, the review found, watch lists used to check certain visitors at the borders contain only a small portion of the 47 million records in FBI fingerprint files.

Current Homeland Security plans call for fingerprint checking against FBI files of fewer than 1% of the estimated 118,000 daily visitors whose prints should be checked.

"The likelihood of missing a criminal alien or terrorist is increased" without expanded use of the FBI files, Fine said.