FBI's billion-dollar biometric plan

In the past, when a local police force wanted to check the identity and past criminal activity of a suspect, the process involved transmitting fingerprints to the FBI for comparison with the bureau's biometric records. The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) handled that query.

Last year, the FBI launched a multibillion-dollar IAFIS upgrade project called Next Generation Identification (NGI). Prime contractor Lockheed Martin has a contract that could run for as long as 10 years if the bureau exercises all its options. NGI seeks to improve the accuracy of IAFIS' fingerprint matches, accommodate the system's increased workload and support future biometric developments. The upgrade will also add sophisticated new capabilities to IAFIS.

One of the capabilities that state, local and private-sector customers of the bureau's Criminal Justice Information Services division have consistently demanded is what is called rapback.

'Rapback allows a user to enroll a subject so that they can receive notification on future activity on that person's identification record,' said an FBI project manager who serves on a team that oversees Lockheed Martin's work. 'As of today, if you are becoming a schoolteacher in the state of wherever, you submit your fingerprints to the FBI through your state regulatory agency. We process it, and we respond back to the state agency, which passes the information along to the local board of education. Your check is good for that day' but not for future days.

A teacher could continue to work in that school system for decades. However, the teacher could take an extended leave, visit another state and be convicted of a sex offense there. If that teacher returned to the original school system, no one would be the wiser.

'At that point, there would be no way for the board of education to know that,' the project manager said.

With a rapback capability, the school district would be notified of the teacher's out-of-state conviction, and any such conviction would likely lead to exclusion from future jobs involving contact with children.

Rapback also helps probation and parole officers learn about their clients' violations in other states. For example, if a parole officer received a rapback notice that a released offender had committed a new crime in another state, that official could send the criminal back to prison.

'For civil purposes, rapback is really important to the states,' the project manager said. 'Federal agencies want it, too.'


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