U.S. House passes bill to expand biometric technology, training, data sharing with foreign partners

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan bill to share biometric technology, training, and data with allied countries to enable them to detect and arrest suspected terrorists, gang members, and other criminals before they reach America, the Washington Examiner reports.

The bill expands the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program (BITMAP), which was created in 2011, and has reportedly identified terrorists, drug smugglers, human traffickers, murderers, child predators, and gang members travelling to the U.S. The Homeland Security Investigations office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will provide training and equipment to foreign agencies.

Michael McCaul, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, who sponsored the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program Authorization Act of 2018, says BITMAP has stopped hundreds of known or suspected terrorists from entering the country.

Partner countries which are vulnerable to underground trafficking systems will collect biographic and biometric information from travelers, and compare the data to the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database and Next Generation Identification Database, the Department of Defense’s ABIS, DHS’ ABIS (IDENT), and any others the DHS secretary considers appropriate. IDENT is due to be replaced soon by HART, as DHS substantially expands the capacity of its biometric matching services.

ICE would inform House and Senate committees within 60 days of a country agreeing to partner, and the Secretary of State and DHS would work together to determine which foreign agencies to work with.

Rep. Bill Keating of Massachusetts, the sole Democrat among the bill’s 12 co-sponsors, said the program has been successful, and should be expanded.

The bill passed by a 272 to 119 vote, and will now proceed to the Senate.

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