Lee at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast links to an interesting report: US screening nets 30 criminals. The key passage:

In Washington, a senior US Homeland Security official said that during the first three days after US Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology – or US-VISIT – was installed at 115 US airports, more than 83,000 international passengers had been photographed and fingerprinted.

“Among those we have had 30 criminal hits,” Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson said.

Mr Hutchison cited one case, that of a Salvadoran national stopped late yesterday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

“When he presented his travel documents everything seemed fine but the biometric identification sounded a warning,” he said.

“Turned out he had used false documents to enter the United States illegally 12 times in the past year and had committed some minor offences.”

Lee apparently feels vindicated by this:

What? You mean to tell me that taking our security seriously can result in fewer criminals getting into America? And that those who would do us harm are going to have a significantly harder time getting into this country through an airport? That can’t be so! I mean, Bush=Hitler!

Venomous Kate concurs.

Somehow, I’m thinking this Salvadoran guy wasn’t going to detonate a dirty bomb in a major city. Indeed, other than proving that, if we inconvenience tens of thousands of people, we should be able to prevent people from getting into the country–provided they have a criminal record and fingerprints on file.

Fingerprinting isn’t particularly intrusive and I have no real problem with requiring it of foreign nationals wishing to get into the country, so long as we can figure a way to do it more expeditiously. But this likely is only slightly more effective than the random searches of little old ladies’ shoes that we do of our own citizens flying domestically.

We’d likely catch more drunk drivers if we set up roadblocks at every exit on our Interstates and checked every driver. Indeed, we’d almost certainly save more lives doing that than we will with this fingerprinting requirement. And doing so would be perfectly legal under current judicial doctrine. But we don’t do it because the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Because of our heightened awareness, I think we’re marginally safer than we were on September 10, 2001. If nothing else, the passengers themselves will prevent a repeat of 9/11. But we’re not going to get radically safer unless we start targeting people who fit the terrorist profile rather than wasting our energy searching everyone. Sure, I suppose it’s possible that al Qaeda will recruit some Gautamalan businessmen to come over and do us harm. But I’d still put most of our energy into scrutinizing Middle Eastern men between the ages of 18 and 35.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DANEgerus says:

    If I as a citizen put up with being fingerprinted to do something Constitutionally protected as lawful… why should a visitor not be expected to put up with being fingerprinted to do something that is a priviledge?

  2. James Joyner says:


    As I say, I don’t have any philosophical objection to it. But having to do it without the infrastructure in place means inordinate delays and expense. And, again, with essentially no increase in security.