U.S. Database of 3 Million Iraqis Retinas and Thumbprints Helps Determine Good Guys from Bad

(Photo: US Army)

Even though the last of the U.S. troops have pulled out of Iraq, Wired reports that the U.S. collected a significant amount of specific biometric information from Iraqis for a database that will continue to be used in establishing who is a good guy or bad guy.

Wired’s Danger Room reports that the database with “incredibly sensitive information” formed over several years and containing about 3 million Iraqis will remain U.S. property. Troops collecting the information used scanning devices to capture digital copies of retinas and thumb prints, among other things.

Wired has more on how the information was used during the war:

Some Iraqis got their unique identifiers recorded because they were suspected insurgents on their way to detention centers. Residents of violent cities like Fallujah would only get to return home from travel if they showed U.S. troops an ID card complete with biometric data. Iraqis underwent iris scans when they wanted to join the police. So did Iraqis who worked on U.S. bases.

It was all part of an effort to answer the war’s most vexing challenge: distinguishing insurgents from Iraqi civilians. And that effort isn’t going away, even after the war technically ended. It’ll be part of U.S. counterterrorism missions for a long time to come.

“Certainly, if someone was in another country or another place and showed up somewhere, we’d compare information to see if it’s someone we had info on,” [Army Maj. T.G.] Taylor explains. For instance, “if they show up in Afghanistan, we collect biometric data [on the individual, maybe] we don’t see them there. But we run it through this database and we see them show up.”

Now that the U.S. has pulled out, the database will still be used. Wired reports that biometric information has also been collected from Afghan citizens:

“We have this information, and rather than cull through it all and say ‘bad guy, good guy, bad guy, good guy, it’s better to just keep it, because that would be very time consuming,” Taylor says. “Biometric data was collected on people who worked on the bases. You’re a good guy; you worked here. It’s not like we’re collecting [data] on an enemy.”

Wired reports that the Iraqi database is being held at Central Command and that Iraqi citizens wanting to access information could potentially do so through the U.S. embassy in Iraq.