DHS to test 10-fingerprint scanner technology

Federal officials expect to test the 10-fingerprint scanner technology that they have persuaded vendors to develop at 10 airports this summer, a senior Homeland Security Department official said this morning at the FOSE trade show and conference.

P.T. Wright, acting deputy director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. Visit) program, said that the tests would evaluate the performance of two scanners the department ordered last month: the Identix Touch Print 4100 Enhanced Definition Device provided by L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. of Stamford, Conn., and the Crossmatch L Scan Guardian Scanners provided by Crossmatch Technologies Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

DHS already has fielded the new generation of 10-finerprint scanners at six consulates and embassies overseas, Wright said. DHS has spurred companies to develop the new generation of smaller, faster 10-fingerprint scanners during the past year via a series of technical meetings, industry days and technology discussions driven by U.S. Visit's prospective purchase of thousands of the units.

For this summer's tests, U.S. Visit officials plan to deploy the scanners at airports in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Orlando, Fla., San Francisco and Fort Wayne, Ind.

Also this summer, U.S. Visit officials will launch tests of a reshaped approach to recording the exit of travelers whose transit into and out of the country falls within the program's authority. "We need to blend [the exit phase of U.S. Visit] in with the departure process," Wright said.

DHS earlier had tested the use of kiosks, including wireless kiosks, so passengers at airports could use to scan their U.S. Visit documents and record their departure from the country. That process reportedly prompted difficulties because travelers didn't always find the kiosks easy to use.

In the new exit processing approach, officials seek to combine the U.S. Visit departure processing with one, or possibly more than one, of the three stages during an airborne departure where travelers already pause for processing: departure desk check-in, processing by Transportation Security Administration screeners and processing at the gate.

DHS said it would start by purchasing 50 of the scanners between the two task orders awarded to the resellers that secured the contracts to sell the Crossmatch and Identix units. Those contracting companies were Technica Corp. of Dulles, Va., and CounterTrade Products Inc. of Arvada, Colo. The Technica Corp. task order totaled $7.6 million, including all options, while the CounterTrade order amounted to $7.2 million, with all options, DHS said.

The task orders each included options for the purchase of 3,000 additional scanners.

Wright pointed to the success of early testing of the 10-fingerprint technology at law enforcement agencies in Boston, Dallas and Houston. Those test deployments have allowed police and sheriffs' office workers to check suspects' fingerprints against two separate databases between which DHS and the FBI seek to achieve complete connectivity: the 10-fingerprint Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification system run by the bureau and the IDENT system originally built by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to hold two-fingerprint records.

The three police agency pilots already have established links between 22 suspects and their records of violating immigration laws, held in IDENT, as well as their records in the FBI system, Wright said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can move in and deport individuals quickly in most cases where immigration law violations mesh with other crimes.

DHS has also provided the 10-fingerprint technology to the Coast Guard for use in the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, the island divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Wright said. As a result, the guard has referred for prosecution 48 persons picked up in the course of operations against human and drug smuggling, he added.

Wilson P. Dizard III is a staff writer for Government Computer News, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

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