Airport Fingerprint Scans

Drudge seems to be upset about US-VISIT, a Department of Homeland Security program for checking international visitors:

US-VISIT is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security because it enhances security for our citizens and visitors while facilitating legitimate travel and trade across our borders. US-VISIT helps to secure our borders, facilitate the entry and exit process, and enhance the integrity of our immigration system while respecting the privacy of our visitors.

US-VISIT is part of a continuum of security measures that begins overseas and continues through a visitor̢۪s arrival in and departure from the United States. It incorporates eligibility determinations made by both the Departments of Homeland Security and State.

In those cases where a visa is issued by the Department of State, biometrics such as digital, inkless fingerscans and digital photographs allow the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether the person applying for entry to the United States is the same person who was issued the visa by the Department of State. Additionally, the biometric and biographic data is checked against watch lists, improving the Department of Homeland Security̢۪s ability to make admissibility decisions as well as the Department of State̢۪s ability to make visa determinations.

US-VISIT currently applies to all visitors (with limited exemptions) holding non-immigrant visas, regardless of country of origin.

Starting September 30, 2004, US-VISIT procedures will be expanded to include visitors traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) arriving at airports and seaports of entry. See Appendix A for a list of the countries in the Visa Waiver Program.

US-VISIT entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports and 14 seaports. Exit procedures are being piloted in two airports and one seaport and will be in an additional 11 airports and two seaports in the fall of 2004. By December 31, 2004, US VISIT entry procedures will be implemented at secondary screening at the 50 busiest land ports of entry and to all 165 land ports entry by December 31, 2005.

This actually makes far more sense than the idiotic testing of old ladies’ shoes and whatnot that we’re doing now. Considering that I have to do the same biometric (fingerprint) scan every time I enter my building to go to work, even though I have a security clearance and ID badge, it seems perfectly reasonable to ask this of foreign visitors. If the machines are properly calibrated, it should be quick and it’s certainly painless and no more invasive than a passport check.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.