Wednesday, June 01, 2005

US forces issue hi-tech ID cards for insurgent suspects

Tikrit: Suspected insurgents are being issued with hi-tech identity cards by US forces, Gulf News has learned.

The cards allow American intelligence services to keep track of people taken into custody even if they are released because they are found to have done nothing wrong.

Most militant suspects in north central Iraq are taken by US military intelligence to a prison in Tikrit, part of Saddam Hussain's personal palace complex and now a major military base.

Once there, they are immediately put through a series of tests to record biometric data. Fingerprints are taken and iris scans carried out on both eyes. Four digital photographs are then taken of the individual's face from different angles.

Cutting-edge computer technology allows a three dimensional map of the suspect's head to be drawn up from this information. That way, even if external changes are made to a face, such as a beard, the computer will be able to recognise the person from unchanging facial dimensions.

All suspects taken to the prison centre on Forward Operating Base Danger have a detailed medical examination. Any evidence collected at the time of their capture is also processed there, and specialist US Military Intelligence officers interrogate them.

Information collected in this process is stored on a central computerised database, accessible to US intelligence agencies across the globe.

Hundreds of Iraqis believed to be involved in the insurgency have been tagged in this way including one man thought to have beheaded a British hostage according to a Military Intelligence (MI) officer serving at the centre. He spoke to Gulf News on condition of anonymity.

Each card has a unique barcode, enabling US soldiers to instantly patch into that person's records. The MI officer said the cards were a key way of keeping track of suspects.

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