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U.S. starts fingerprint program

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (for citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Up to 28 million visitors to the United States now have to stop for photographs and fingerprinting under a new government program launched Monday and intended to make it harder for terrorists to enter the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the new US-VISIT program applies to any visitors who must have a visa to enter the United States.

By October, all visitors will be required to have a machine-readable passport or some other method of biometric identification, such as fingerprints or retina scans.

"As the world community combats terrorism ... you're going to see more and more countries going to a form of biometric identification to confirm identities," Ridge said.

Citizens from more than two dozen countries, mostly in Europe, aren't required to carry a visa if their visit is less than 90 days. Visitors from those countries are exempt.

Visitors from exempt countries who are working in the United States, however, require a work visa, and therefore must leave their fingerprints and photographs with U.S. authorities.

"We want visitors from abroad to continue to come to the United States, but we also want to secure our borders," Ridge said.
First steps

Ridge acknowledged that US-VISIT -- United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology -- will only cover a small fraction of the estimated 500 million annual visitors to the United States, but he said the program was but the "first significant step in a series of steps" the government plans to take in the coming months and years.

Outside of Europe, the exempt countries include Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Brunei. Citizens of Canada generally do not need a visa to enter the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the goal of the US-VISIT program is to track the millions of people who come to the United States every year on business, student and tourist visas -- and to use the information as a tool against terrorists.

Critics say the broad-reaching program will cause unnecessary travel delays and may never prove to be effective.

"There's so much information in such volumes that there's a limit to what any analyst can absorb," said Larry Johnson, an aviation security consultant.

Faiz Rehman, president of the National Council of Pakistani-Americans, points to the disruption in travel.

"Without proper training, there will be long lines, there will be missed flights, there will be people who would be wrongly stopped," Rehman said.
Brazilian backlash

Outside the United States, there has been a backlash as well.

In reaction to the U.S. policy, Brazil last week began fingerprinting and photographing American visitors arriving at Sao Paulo's airport. Brazil's Foreign Ministry has also requested that Brazilians be removed from the U.S. list.

Ridge said that "if the Brazilian government thinks it's in their interests (to fingerprint and photograph Americans), so be it."

"It's not two standards, one for the United States and one for the rest of the world," he said.

The U.S. program, which has a budget of $380 million, will require an estimated 24 million visitors to submit two finger scans and have a photograph taken upon entering any of 115 airports or 14 seaports.

Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said once screeners become proficient, the extra security will take only 10 to 15 seconds per person, The Associated Press reported.

Inkless fingerprints will be taken and checked instantly against a digital database for criminal backgrounds and any terrorist lists. The process will be repeated when visitors leave the United States as an extra security measure and to ensure they complied with visa limitations.
Pentagon official: Fighter jets shadow airliners

Heightened security concerns and the raised terror alert level prompted American fighter jets to "cover" commercial passenger aircraft over the United States more than 10 times since late December, a senior Pentagon official said Monday.

"Covering" means that military aircraft on combat air patrols escort or shadow a commercial aircraft because of possible terror concerns.

The official indicated that Code Orange is expected to last for several more days, possibly through the end of January.

"We are still in the threat zone," he said. The threat condition is based on a stream of information indicating a credible threat involving the possibility of simultaneous attacks in the United States using passenger aircraft against targets in Washington, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the official said.

Monday, Ridge that the delays and cancellations of British Airways flights since Wednesday were justified by the intelligence that led to them.

Without elaboration, Ridge told ABC's "Good Morning America," "We think you err on the side of public safety when you have a threat targeting a specific flight."

On NBC's "Today," the secretary said that "there was specific information regarding those flights."

I feel this is a little racist...I don't know...I know NZ is one of the exempt countries but still...what if Anne wants to visit but has to go through the fingerprinting process? Not every middle eastern is a terrorist. It just makes me feel funny.
post #2 of 12
I get it. It's a lot like the Japanese relocation camps during WWII. As much as US leaders want to show our country as strong and not yielding to terrorism, I think people were frightened to death by the events of 9/11. Whenever we are able to think of people in foreign countries as individuals, then it makes actions like these harder to comprehend. Perhaps Anne will correct me if I am wrong, but security-type procedures, like those on airlines, in Israel make ours look like a joke.

I think the part of this that really makes me stop and think is that all of this bio-identification technology seems like it is just around the corner for all of us. I was discussing this with a friend the other night. Right now, they make this Big Brother stuff seem so appealing, like On Star in new vehicles. All he has to do is press a button, and they know exactly where he is. They can unlock the doors, pinpoint location, shut down the engine from receiving gasoline, all at the click of a mouse. Like my friend said, "Pretty soon, my speed will be monitored 24/7, and I'll just get a ticket in the mail." I thought of this when I was watching Minority Report the other night. I was particularly halted in the scene in the Gap, where as each customer walked in the door, his retinas were scanned, and he was greeted by name.

Now, that is the kind of stuff that is scary.

(Was this a thread hijack?)
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
oh of course deb, it was a thread hijack!

I agree, its scary...when will we totally lose our freedom?

All because of a few crazy men.
post #4 of 12
I guess your post just led me to thinking that we go to these measures out of fear, and I believe that sooner, rather than later, they will become the standard for all. Look at how intrusive the internet has become in less than 10 years.

Several years back, each of my children traveled abroad with a program called People to People Student Ambassadors. The program was founded by Eisenhower, with the belief that if we begin to gt to know one another as individuals, rather than groups or cultures, then it would help contribute to peace, rather than suspicion.
post #5 of 12
when I sat for the CPA exam. I have this vague recollection of someone coming around with some chemical processed card (no black ink) before the test began. (This of course comes to mind from watching CSI too many times, in the event that I decide to start on a life of crime.)

I have to say, security procedures don't trouble me that much.
I'm not sure if the fingerprinting is just for show: I would suspect that the security services of certain countries in the middle east probably have data-banks of suspected or known terrorists' fingerprints that they share with the US.The problem is that a few groups of crazy men (and an occasional woman) now do have the ability to hurt or kill significant amounts of people. Until the countries who on the one hand officially condemn their acts but in reality look the other way, start living up to their obligation to the world community to address their own problems, the US has to do the best that it can, however limited the effort.
post #6 of 12
I don't care about security measures, just as long as it doesn't cause any major delay on my traveling schedule and I am treated with respect. I've never experienced it personally, but I have witnessed a lot of "racist" treatment to foreign visitors in all countries (including US) that I've been to. It is even more obvious after 9/11. This makes me sad.
post #7 of 12
Canada is exempt. But you can be sure that this will cause huge delays in travel. Already, the orange alert precautions are causing hours of delay at border crossings.

And did you know that the technology now exists to implant transmitters in clothing and other products, and then track people's movements with receivers all over the place? There are companies that offer this service to compile use and lifestyle profiles of the buyers.
post #8 of 12
This assumes that any potential terrorist is coming into the US legally. All they need to do is try to slip across the border somewhere, and there is no tracking. We have enough trouble tracking criminals from state to state, how is this going to work?
post #9 of 12
I don't think that I would have a problem with this except for all of the exemptions. We already saw that an American can serve with the Taliban. There have been terrorist suspects arrested in many European countries, although most of those people have been of Middle Eastern origin I believe. Al Quaeda is obviously very adept at recruiting people from all over the world, so it seems to me that this is another of those "Security for Show" measures that won't really be effective.
post #10 of 12
Originally posted by valanhb
I don't think that I would have a problem with this except for all of the exemptions. We already saw that an American can serve with the Taliban. There have been terrorist suspects arrested in many European countries, although most of those people have been of Middle Eastern origin I believe. Al Quaeda is obviously very adept at recruiting people from all over the world, so it seems to me that this is another of those "Security for Show" measures that won't really be effective.
I agree with Heidi. Atta & Co. had valid visas, no criminal records, and had done nothing prior that had raised official suspicions (their trips to Afghanistan only came out later). Taking their prints and photographing them wouldn't have prevented 9/11. One of the Hamburg group who is still being sought has a German mother and German citizenship. According to the new rules, he wouldn't be checked.
post #11 of 12
And there are Canadian citizens on the watch list. I think that this is way more for show than for any good that it will do.
post #12 of 12
Well, they did talk of this in the days after 9/11 and when mentioned then, the atmosphere was receptive and wishful of already having such a database.

It will be in addition to security measures in place. And it will slightly increase travel time, though I imagine it would be negligible.
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