Secure Communities to Play Role in Massive FBI-Biometric Database System

New documents released Wednesday assert that ICE’s controversial Secure Communities program is just a small part of a bigger effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to create the “world’s largest crime-fighting computer database of biometric information, including fingerprints, palm prints, iris patterns and face images” called Next Generation Identification (NGI) project.

The new findings also reaffirm the federal government’s stance on implementing the immigration enforcement program even if states like Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York decline to participate and that the FBI played a larger role in making the program mandatory.

According to the documents, obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, the FBI supported a mandatory Secure Communities program as early as 2009.

In one document, the FBI Advisory Policy Board passed a motion in June 2009, recommending that ICE convert the Secure Communities program from a voluntary to a mandatory program, while ICE was publicly wavering on its mandatory vs. voluntary stance.  (FBI-SC-1312-1313; FBI-SC-1336)

Another document provided details on the reasoning behind the FBI’s decision, which was not driven by any legal mandate, but for “record-linking/maintenance purposes” in creating full interoperability between the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification (IAFIS) and DHS’ Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) databases for the NGI project. (FBI SC-1313)

The NGI project expands on the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s current IAFIS database system, which is primarily operated and maintained in Clarksburg, W. Va. Currently, Lockheed Martin has a billion dollar contract consisting of a base year and one-to-nine option years to develop the technology. The company also developed and deployed IAFIS for the FBI back in 1999.

The connection between the Secure Communities program and the FBI’s NGI project is stirring up concern among advocates who say it expands the federal government’s Big Brother role.

“These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties,” said Gitanjali Gutierez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”