Justice IG: Counterterror data sharing stalled

The Justice Department still cannot check the vast majority of U.S. visitors against the FBI's criminal master file, department inspector general Glenn A. Fine said today in a review of counterterror database integration. The reasons are inconsistent fingerprint collection methods and lack of common biometric standards.

Only a small portion of the biometric data in the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System can be extracted into the Homeland Security Department's IDENT system, Fine's report said.

'For Justice to proceed effectively with its plans to make IAFIS interoperable' with systems at DHS and the State Department, the report said, 'high-level policy decisions must be made regarding who should be subjected to fingerprint searches, fingerprint collection standards and databases to be queried.'

In addition, it said, officials must decide who will have access to such information, how they will use it and who will maintain the databases.

The IG said DHS has estimated that it can make criminal checks on only 800 individuals daily'0.7 percent of the 118,000 visitors subject to the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology system.

Furthermore, the report said, IAFIS did not meet its requirement for 99 percent availability from November 2003 through April 2004, suffering from unscheduled as well as scheduled outages without notification to users.

To improve interoperability, the IG said, DHS, State and the National Institute of Standards and Technology must reach agreement on uniform biometric fingerprint identification. In addition, DHS and Justice must ease user access to IDENT.

Despite efforts by the DHS and Justice CIOs to expedite integration of IDENT and IAFIS, the IG said, the situation has reached an impasse. The review recommended:

  • Setting a 90-day deadline for adoption of common technology standards

  • Weekly instead of monthly transmission of prints of known or suspected terrorists from the FBI to DHS

  • Randomly sampling US-VISIT and other biometric databases for comparison against IAFIS records

  • Improving IAFIS' capacity, standards compliance and uptime.


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