Fingerprint Technology on the Go
|The Quick Capture Platform, which includes
(left to right) the satelllite unit, laptop, battery,
and fingerprint scanner
Last August, a man applied to become an Iraqi police officer in Baghdad’s International Zone. His fingerprints were run through a new portable fingerprint system called “Quick Capture,” and within a couple of minutes a hit was returned—his fingerprints matched latent prints found previously on a bomb.
In the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, where identities are often murky and deception common, the U.S. and its global partners are in constant need of a way to run what are essentially instantaneous background checks, both in the field of battle and at military and government facilities.
Precisely why we created “Quick Capture.” The system, launched last year, is just what the name says—a fast way to identify known or suspected terrorists, transnational criminals, and other persons of interest using fingerprint technologies.
“Quick Capture gives us the same instant feedback capabilities abroad that law enforcement in the U.S. has had for years when accessing FBI databases during criminal investigations or routine traffic stops,” says Assistant Director Tom Bush of our Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
It’s also a useful intelligence screening tool. Say our troops are doing a sweep of a suspected terrorist safe house in Iraq. They round up a half-dozen guys who all claim to be farmers. But our use of Quick Capture shows otherwise: one of the men has a terrorist record. Now we know to focus on him and attempt to gather potentially useful intelligence.
A few telling details about Quick Capture:
- What it is. A laptop, fingerprint scanner, battery, and satellite unit weighing 22 pounds that fits into a backpack and can be easily transported into remote or hazardous places.
- How it works. FBI personnel collect and digitize fingerprints using the laptop, connect via satellite to two fingerprint databases back in the states, run searches against those prints, and wait just moments for potential matches. The two databases are the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (among its 62 million records are 77,000 records of known/suspected terrorists) and the Department of Defense’s Automated Biometric Identification System.
- Why it’s so handy. Since it’s portable, we can take it directly to where the bad guys are (i.e., remote towns and villages, mountains, caves, etc.). The satellite connection enables lightning fast response times. And by continually adding new fingerprints from suspicious characters overseas to our records, Quick Capture can even help keep terrorists and other thugs out of the U.S.
Quick Capture is quite an upgrade. After 9/11, our experts had to use ink and paper cards to collect fingerprints overseas. Response times ranged from a couple of days to a couple of weeks because the cards had to be physically sent or hand-carried back to America. Eventually, the process was automated to enable electronic transmittal, but the equipment was stationary and had to work through phone lines so response times still averaged a few hours.
But it’s just the beginning. As technology evolves, future models of Quick Capture will be even more lightweight and will include multi-modal capabilities like iris, palm, and facial recognition.
How successful has Quick Capture been so far? Very. We’ve already collected nearly 6,000 sets of prints and have identified almost 1,300 known or suspected terrorists. “More important,” says Bush, “are the countless terrorist attacks that may have been prevented worldwide, including right here in the U.S.”