White House identifies biometrics as key to stopping terrorists from travelling

White House identifies biometrics as key to stopping terrorists from travelling

Enhancing identity validation systems and advancing the use of biometrics are key to the White House’s newly released strategy for preventing terrorists from travelling, and helping foreign partners adopt the technology is a significant part of the plan.

The National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel (PDF) sets out three goals for curbing the ability of terrorists to travel between and within countries. The first goal is to “identify and deter terrorists before they travel,” the second is to “detect and interdict terrorists during their travel,” and the third is to “enhance travel security capabilities and capacity of foreign partners.”

The subsections explaining the strategic objectives of all three goals specifically refer to biometrics. Strategic objective 1.2, to enhance information collection and analysis by intelligence and law enforcement, includes a call to “Improve functionality of identity-management systems and expand the collection and use of biometric, biographic, and derogatory data for vetting and screening.” Strategic objective 2.1 prioritizes the expanding the use of biometric equipment and technologies to identify terrorists among passengers. Strategic objective 3.2, to strengthen the screening and identification capabilities of foreign partners, calls for efforts by foreign partners to increase data sharing of biometric and other traveler data to be encouraged and supported.

Vetting is defined as a “biographic and/or biometric” check against watchlists and threat intelligence, and is referred to numerous times throughout the 21-page document.

The Biometrics Institute has been working with UN counter-terrorism agencies on how to responsibly apply the force of biometric identification to their efforts, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Traveler Biometric Entry-Exit Program continues to expand, despite challenges. Biometrics are also being touted for seamless travel as airports become more crowded.

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