FBI, INS plan a match on IDs

FBI, INS plan a match on IDs

Users will be able to compare fingerprints against four databases, IAFIS program manager Jim Jasinski says.

Justice wants single fingerprint system

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The Justice Department over the next five years plans to spend $200 million to integrate the incompatible fingerprint systems of the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The two agencies first discussed integrating the fingerprint systems in 1997, but a recent inspector general report and demands from state and local law enforcement agencies have given the project renewed emphasis, Justice officials said.

Justice requested $5 million for fiscal 2001 to integrate the IDENT system at INS with the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System at the FBI. For this year, INS earmarked $7.2 million for integration, said Bob Diegelman, director of management and planning in the Justice Management Division.

The department will use this year's funding to conduct three studies. This month, Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., began studying the technical options. It will finish the examination by Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, an in-house team will conduct a study to estimate the severity of crimes committed by illegal aliens. 'There have only been spot studies done,' Diegelman said.

Justice will also complete an operational study by Sept. 30 to determine costs related to the integration, he said. 'What you might save in systems design, you might spend in processing and holding people,' Diegelman said.

Justice plans to integrate IAFIS and IDENT in three phases. By the end of 2002, Justice will create a lookout file of more than 2 million subjects. The FBI's Clarksburg, W.Va., data center would maintain the file.

During Phase 2, the department wants to integrate the INS' recidivist database with the lookout file by mid-2005.

Two-minute search

Finally, the department plans to finish in 2006 the integration of IAFIS and IDENT. All records and search tools for the two systems would be meshed into a single system. Users would be able to compare fingerprints against IDENT's recidivist files and asylum files, the combined lookout files and IAFIS' Criminal Master File, said Jim Jasinski, the FBI's IAFIS program manager. A typical search would take about two minutes, he said.

The FBI team is viewing the integration of the systems as comparable to how it handles integration with states' fingerprint systems, Jasinski said. 'IAFIS would incorporate IDENT as a 51st state,' he said.

As with the state systems, the IDENT interface to IAFIS will be via the Criminal Justice Information Center WAN, Jasinski said.

The Justice IG report said the department must integrate IDENT and IAFIS to avoid a repeat of the Rafael Resendez-Ramirez case [GCN, April 24, Page 1].

Resendez-Ramirez crossed the border multiple times during 1998 and 1999. He allegedly killed four people following illegal crossings into the United States.

Although Border Patrol agents had entered data on Resendez-Ramirez in IDENT's recidivist database of 4 million records, they did not enter information in the lookout database of 380,000 records detailing illegal aliens' criminal histories.

The case spurred the FBI and INS, at the direction of Congress and under the guidance of the Justice Management Division, to speed up integration plans, said the IG report, A Review of the INS's Actions and the Operation of Its IDENT Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The agencies had not worked together originally on a fingerprint system for a number of reasons, Justice officials said. For one, INS and the bureau have quite different missions. Also, the FBI's $640 million IAFIS took far longer to develop and deploy than originally planned.

Stephen Colgate, assistant attorney general for administration, told the IG there were three obstacles that kept the integration effort on the back burner during the past three years:

' The FBI and INS each had its own agenda.

' There was insufficient funding.

' As development of the two bureaus' separate systems progressed, integration became more difficult to accommodate.

The two bureaus had discussed plans to integrate, but they never came to fruition, Jasinski said.

An early technical specification difference also hindered integration. The INS decided that it would collect two pressed fingerprints from illegal aliens. FBI and state law enforcement agencies collect a full 10-print set. The FBI urged INS to gather 10 rolled fingerprints so they could be matched easily against IAFIS records, the IG report said.

'The INS IDENT system gives Border Patrol agents a one-minute response. To get a response with 10 prints takes seven to 10 minutes,' Diegelman said. 'INS went with the smaller version to meet their needs.'

INS deployed IDENT in 1994. The Border Patrol agents use it to process 1.5 million illegal aliens apprehended each year, mostly along the Southwest border.

INS designed IDENT to capture pressed prints from the right and left index fingers. The fingerprints, a digital photograph and biographical information for each illegal alien apprehended reside in an Oracle7 Release 7.3.1 database on a Compaq Alpha server at Justice's data center in Rockville, Md.

Easy access

Agents can access IDENT from their PCs, which run Microsoft Windows 95 or Win98, via the INS WAN.

When INS deployed IDENT, the agency approached the FBI about being able to match its two-print files against IAFIS.

'The FBI believed this was problematic and would require much greater computer power than it had in order to provide the response time INS needed,' the IG report said. IAFIS can electronically compare the files, but the response time is two hours for a limited number of requests, the IG said.

'In the long run, we have to come up with a way to combine IAFIS and IDENT. The benchmark is to go from two to 10 prints,' Diegelman said.

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