By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 24, 2008 - The Iraqi government has expanded its use of biometric identification, a U.S. official in Iraq said yesterday. While the biometric program was procured to screen for identification of the government's civilian employees, police and army, it has expanded to identify the deceased and screen for previous criminal activity, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Velliquette Jr., Iraqi biometrics manager for the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team, said in a conference call with online journalists and "bloggers."
"The Iraqis are embracing it and moving it beyond its initial capability of just being a civil verification system," Velliquette said.
Velliquette said the Iraqis use an automated fingerprint identification system to record data on Iraqi citizens and persons of interest.
"Currently in the system, we have about 848,000 biometric records," Velliquette said.
The records include 12,000 criminal records, 375,000 civil fingerprint records, 111,000 fingerprint records from the Defense Ministry, and 21,000 fingerprint records from the Justice Ministry.
"The Iraqi AFIS program is very successful," Velliquette said. "They're starting to collect [latent fingerprints] at crimes scenes and making latent matches."
Iraqi investigators recently made a latent fingerprint match at a crime scene involving a high-ranking Iraqi official. It is not yet known whether the official is a suspect in the crime, he said.
"They collected the latent print and actually made a successful match, which is quite an accomplishment for them," Velliquette said.
Iraqi and coalition forces collect fingerprints, iris scans, picture profiles, and voiceprints for biometric records. However, Velliquette said, the Iraqis store only the fingerprints in the AFIS system.
Velliquette explained how the biometric records are stored and identified.
Each individual is assigned an identification number consisting of the date the biometrics were collected as well as the number of the kit that was used, Velliquette said. Each identification number is verified by the individual's fingerprint, and that information is matched with biographical information, he added.
The main purpose of the biometrics system is to identify criminals and insurgents who infiltrated the Iraqi military and police, Velliquette said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)