By SIBA, Special for USDR
Today, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, former 9/11 Commission border counsel Janice Kephart called upon the Department of Homeland Security to deploy a full and robust biometric immigration exit system, and re-engineered entry system, as soon as possible.
“While the Department of Homeland Security is currently testing certain biometric solutions that are already proven in their speed, accuracy and security in other international airports around the world,” said Kephart, “ISIS is not waiting to recruit millions who can come to the US visa-free, nor advise its followers to infiltrate the West using fake travel documents and names, as in its 2015 Guide to Surviving in the West. The only way for US border officials to have significant confidence in defeating ISIS and other terrorist and criminal organizations from coming and going through our ports without detection is by using biometrics. While a person may try to lie about his name and his travel document, a person’s physiological characteristics cannot lie, nor be lost, forgotten, stolen, or forged.”
“To be clear,” said Kephart, “passports are designed to be replicated by governments. Keeping them secure is essential, but difficult. Having biographic information for each individual is also essential. However, biographic information stored on a passport is well known to be subject to fraud and counterfeiting. This is especially so when even ePassports (which contain a chip that bearing the information that is on a passport bio page) are not systematically authenticated, as is the case with the US immigration entry system. Yet when one or more biometrics is added to the biographic border process, then the ability of a fake or manipulated real passport to successfully bypass a port of entry undetected becomes extremely difficult.”
One of the complicating reasons why a biometric exit system is still not in place 14 years after 9/11 is because of the eight laws passed since 1996, none have provided sufficient incentive for compliance. Congress should pass legislation requiring compliance while also authorizing appropriations for the project, and doing so through an increased visa fee equal to what the travel and tourism industry already receives from foreign nationals applying for visas. “Surely our security is equal in value to tourism,” said Kephart. “Moreover, authorizing an increase in visa fees could enable biometric exit deployment, for at least major international border ports of entry, to be as budget neutral as possible. That is essential when sequestration looms over every budget cycle.”
In regard to feasibility, Kephart’s testimony describes in detail 32 countries’ biometric border systems. For example, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, responsible for annually processing 55 million passengers (the top five busiest US airports add up to 50 million international passengers per year), is completing a five-year build-out of 80 e-gates used for entry, exit and transfers. Traveler processing for most individuals is 10-15 seconds.
Hong Kong has integrated biometrics with document reader technology into all land, rail, sea and air ports with no greater than a 30 minutes average wait time at the Hong Kong-China land borders. Its annual processing of 92 million passengers. The entire US northern border processes approximately 60 million passengers total.
The European Union is piloting a large variety of biometric border controls at all types of ports of entry, covering the entire Schengen area of 26 countries. Within Schengen, citizens move freely, but the January “Charlie Hebdo” terror attack in Paris highlighted the vulnerabilities of failure of its borders to verify identity.
Kephart is currently serving as North Americas Director of BORDERPOL, CEO of the Secure Identity & Biometrics Association (SIBA), and Executive Director of the Airport Entry and Exit Working Group which released its Identity and Biometric Entry and Exit Solutions Framework for Airports in November 2014. The Working Group urges the Department of Homeland Security to treat the biometric, document security and identity management industry as a stakeholder in determining biometric entry and exit solutions.