(Stephen C. Webster) The Federal Bureau of Investigations announced recently that it is dedicating up to $1 billion for a Lockheed Martin-developed system that will enable on-the-fly analysis of detailed identification information that can be instantaneously shared with law enforcement all around the world.
It’s called the “Next Generation Identification System” (NGIS), and if you’re a fan of television dramas like the CBS crime drama NCIS, it may sound pretty familiar.
The FBI says their forthcoming system is an “incremental” upgrade to their currently-existing “Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System” (IAFIS), but it’s more than just an upgrade: it’s a revolution in law enforcement technology that’s bound to draw comparisons to the “Total Information Awareness” (TIA) project Congress ostensibly shut down in 2004.
The TIA project, however, was broader in scope, targeting private individuals all over the world instead of just suspected criminals or terrorists.
While the initial stage of NGIS deals solely with fingerprints, the FBI said it will eventually upscale to include detailed biometrics like retina prints, facial mapping, palm prints, voice mapping and handwriting analysis, among other likely sources of data.
“[NGIS] represents a quantum leap in fingerprint identification that will help us in solving investigations, preventing crime, and apprehending criminals and terrorists,” an agency spokesman announced earlier this month.
One aspect of the program that’s likely to draw a sharp reacting from civil liberties advocates is the provision of electronic fingerprint scanners to state and local police agencies.
The FBI says these scanners will be used to collect biometric data from “suspects,” as opposed to those convicted of crimes. That data would then be sent wirelessly to the NGIS, where it can be accessed by law enforcement anywhere.
A sub-database, called the “Repository for Individuals of Special Concern,” will also be created to track wanted criminals, registered sex offenders and “suspected terrorists.”
That’s another facet of the project which may give civil liberties advocates even more cause for alarm, considering the Obama administration’s recent revisions to how Americans suspected of terrorism should be treated by law enforcement.
In an FBI memorandum recently obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the direction was given to hold American terrorism suspects without reading them their Miranda rights, which guarantee U.S. citizens the right to remain silent and have an attorney present for questioning.
Under the Obama administration’s new rules, constitutional requirements can be ignored in “exceptional cases,” allowing investigators leeway to “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.”
The FBI’s center in Clarksburg, W. Virginia is currently participating in the NGIS program, according to a published report.
The agency also plans to construct a 50,000-sq. ft. “Biometric Technology Center” in Clarksburg, which will be shared with the Department of Defense.
A spokesperson with the American Civil Liberties Union was unavailable for comment at time of this story’s publication.