In 2011, 1 in 25 Americans was arrested. In a few years, if the FBI has its way, the federal government will possess the DNA of all of those people and more. Under the radar of most lawmakers and journalists, the Bureau–with private industry and congress’ help–is pushing the most massive expansion of biometric state surveillance since the invention of the fingerprint.
Late last year, the FBI cut the ribbon on its one billion dollar biometrics database, called Next Generation Identification. Since NGI’s official launch, state and local law enforcement officials have been encouraged to submit face prints, fingerprints, retina scans, photos of tattoos and scars, and DNA collected from people nationwide to the FBI’s central database. Those state and local officials can also search against the FBI’s biometrics store, if they want to identify someone. With NGI in full operation, the scary future of Minority Report infamy takes a giant leap forward into the world of non-fiction.
The FBI has big goals when it comes to biometric databases, but they can’t achieve them without the active buy-in and assistance of state and local police.
That’s part of the reason why Department of Justice and Homeland Security grant programs have paid for state and local police nationwide to purchase biometric capturing and processing technologies. Ask your local police department about their electronic fingerprint readers, for example, and you’re likely to hear that they were purchased with federal funds. Those devices make it easy for police and sheriffs nationwide to submit fingerprints to the FBI–rapidly, from the field, and with very little effort on behalf of departments.