The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, found that “constraining terrorist travel should become a vital part of counterterrorism strategy.” Noting that, biometric technologies have been proposed for a huge number of other homeland security applications.
Biometrics had been implemented to the U.S. border control systems. The US Congress has enacted laws in the past 6 years that required more extensive use of biometrics in border control systems. These laws require that by the end of 2004, all ports of entry were to be able to perform biometric comparison and authentication of all U.S. visas and other travel and entry documents. Continually, in August 2004, the Transportation Security Administration began the prototype phase of developing a uniform Transportation Worker Identification Card, which will include facial biometric. Since then, facial recognition has been widely proposed in public places such as airports and sports stadiums.
One facet of the homeland security strategy focuses on border security which is to prevent the illegal entry of people and goods into the US without impeding their legitimate flow. However, The US essentially relies on a two-step approach to prevent inadmissible people from entering the country. The Bureau of Consular Affairs in the State Department is responsible for issuing international travel documents, such as passports in the United States and visas in other countries, and INS in the Department of Justice is responsible for inspecting travelers at the ports of entry. INS has estimated that up to 60 percent of the 275,000 new illegal immigrants each year do not present themselves at ports of entry to enter the US. Hence, part of the border security mission is controlling the passage of travelers through these official entry points into the US. As a result, Biometric technologies, using one or more of a person’s distinct physiological or behavioral characteristics, have been suggested as an effective way to help automate the identification of travelers to the United States at these ports of entry.
Biometric technology can play a vital role in associating a person with travel documents such as visas and passports. When used at a border inspection, the biometric comparison can be used to help decide whether to admit a traveler into the US. For example, using a biometric watch list can provide an additional check to name-based checks and can help detect travelers trying to evade detection who have successfully established a separate name and identity. The use of passports and visas with biometrics can help positively identify travelers as they enter the US and can limit the use of fraudulent documents, including counterfeit and modified documents, and impostors’ use of legitimate documents.
In early 2015, The US’s Customs and Border Patrol has tested out an ambitious new set of biometric programs including two main systems. The first system is facial recognition s to be used in airport security checks, and has been already being tested at Washington’s Dulles airport. The second one is a multimodal biometrics system which has tested fingerprint and iris scanner along the Mexican border that would verify when a certain person had left the country. In this project, the Department of Homeland Security stated that iris matching was by no means 100% accurate.
The implementation of biometric technology for US border security is no exception. Biometric technology is an important part of the overall decision support system that helps determine whether to allow a person into the US. The first gate is whether to issue travelers a US travel document. The second gate, made at the ports of entry, is whether to admit travelers into the country. Biometrics can play a determining role in both gates. When enabled with biometrics, automated systems can verify the identity of the traveler and assist inspectors in their decision making.