The fingerprint project, the most ambitious ever undertaken by the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence community, grows out of the U.S. effort to locate and neutralize the 10,000 or so men who went through Al-Qaeda terror camps and are now dispersed in sleeper cells around the world. U.S. counter-terrorism investigators, sifting through interviews with detainees in Guantanamo and documents seized in Afghanistan and Pakistan, place top priority on pinning down the true names and nationalities of these Al-Qaeda operatives. Once that's been accomplished, U.S. agencies canvass security services where the terrorists resided for fingerprints. Mugshots and other identifying data are also being filed in the new system.
A bill that passed the House last December and is expected to win Senate approval this week will require that by the year 2003 all foreign visitors must submit fingerprints and other biometric data, which will be encoded in a tamper-proof visa document. The U.S. State Department will be able to access the FBI/CIA database while considering whether to grant a visa. The Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs authorities will also have access to the names and details in FBI/CIA terror intelligence database when screening visitors at ports of entry.