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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration
Report No. I-2002-003
December 7, 2001


TRANSMITTAL LETTER

December 7, 2001

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chairwoman
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism,
   and Governmental Information
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Jon Kyl
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism,
   and Governmental Information
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Madame Chairwoman and Senator Kyl:

I am writing in response to your request made during my appearance at the Subcommittee's October 12, 2001, hearing that examined "Technology's Role in Preventing the Entry of Terrorists into the United States." You asked the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to report on efforts by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), under the auspices of the Justice Management Division (JMD), to integrate their biometric fingerprint identification systems. We are pleased to provide the enclosed report that describes the status of these integration efforts.

The OIG report provides a brief history of INS and FBI efforts to integrate their fingerprint identification systems, known respectively as IDENT and IAFIS. We also summarize the Department of Justice's (Department) activities since issuing an implementation plan in March 2000 to integrate the two systems and describe significant changes in this plan since August 2001. We conclude by detailing the current status of the project and offering several recommendations.

In sum, three recent Department-sponsored studies have concluded that integration of IDENT and IAFIS is technically and operationally achievable. However, integration of the fingerprint system remains in the earliest stage of field testing. This stage has taken longer to accomplish than originally envisioned, and full integration of IDENT and IAFIS remains years away.

Engineering studies have estimated that the overall cost of developing and deploying an integrated IDENT/IAFIS system taking ten fingerprints at all INS locations would be approximately $450 million to $570 million between fiscal years 2002 and 2007. However, the INS concluded that integrating IDENT and IAFIS would increase its operational costs for staffing and detention facilities to handle the increased number of criminal aliens who would be identified and need to be detained. The INS estimated that the increased operational costs would range from $600 million to $1.4 billion. JMD believes that the INS's estimates of increased operational costs are questionable and proposes to conduct additional tests. JMD now plans to field test the first stage of IDENT/IAFIS integration to gauge the operational impact and also to test the system's performance before moving to the next stage of an integrated IDENT/IAFIS system.

Our primary finding in this review - similar to our conclusion in an OIG report on this subject issued almost two years ago - is that the Department and its components have moved slowly towards integration. We believe the Department should continue to aggressively and expeditiously seek linkage of the FBI and INS biometric identification systems. In light of the events of September 11th, the need for linkage is more critical than ever.

The OIG also believes that the INS should continue to use IDENT while integration of IDENT and IAFIS is proceeding. We support deployment of IDENT workstations to additional INS sites pending its full integration with IAFIS, since IDENT is the only fingerprint identification system currently available to the INS that allows a rapid check of aliens seeking entry into the United States legally or illegally.

We also believe that adding fingerprint records for aliens wanted in connection with crimes to the IDENT lookout database is a prudent and necessary interim measure. In August 2001, the INS added the 8,600 fingerprint records of the U.S. Marshals Service's federal "wants and warrants" for aliens to the IDENT lookout database. In addition, the INS and the FBI are working together and hope to add the FBI's 70,000 wants and warrants for aliens to the INS's lookout database by early 2002.

Our report recommends that the INS place ten-print records (and photographs, if available) of suspected terrorists into the IDENT lookout database as an interim measure until the INS and FBI systems are fully integrated. If the INS takes this step, aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol or aliens sent to secondary inspection at a port of entry could be searched in IDENT against the lookout database to identify suspected terrorists.

I can be reached at (202) 514-3435 if you have any questions about our report or recommendations.

                        Sincerely,

                        

                        Glenn A. Fine
                        Inspector General

Enclosure


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