Follow-up Review of the Status of IDENT/IAFIS Integration

E & I Report No. I-2005-001
December 2004

Results of the Review - Part III

    In response to our March 2004 report on IDENT/IAFIS: The Batres Case and the Status of the Integration Project, the Department, the CJIS Division, and the DHS have taken action to address four of the five recommendations. The Department assigned responsibility for the integration project within the Department to its CIO, the development of a fully integrated IDENT/IAFIS is being expeditiously pursued, Wants and Warrants updates are now provided to the DHS on a daily basis, and the criminal histories of aliens who have IAFIS hits are made available to Border Patrol agents and immigration inspectors. However, the Department and the DHS still have not developed a Memorandum of Understanding to guide the future efforts to integrate the IDENT and IAFIS systems.

No Memorandum of Understanding developed. In our March 2004 report, we recommended that the Department work with the DHS to develop and implement an MOU to guide integration of IAFIS and IDENT. The Conference Report accompanying the FY 2004 omnibus appropriations legislation also directed the Department to develop an MOU with the DHS and other appropriate federal agencies regarding the continued integration of fingerprint systems.

Yet, as described above, the Department, the DHS, and the DOS have not developed and implemented the MOU because of fundamental disagreements over what the attributes of an interoperable biometric fingerprint system should be, or the extent to which systems should be made interoperable. Although the Department, the DHS, and the DOS have continued to work together in interagency working groups to discuss operational and technical problems of mutual concern, high-level decisions regarding the fundamental issues must be resolved before agreement can be reached on the long-term interoperability of the IAFIS, IDENT, and US-VISIT systems.

Responsibility for the integration project within the Department has been assigned to the CIO. We recommended that the Department assign responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the integration project to a senior Department official. The Department assigned that responsibility for coordinating the integration project to the Department CIO.

The development of a fully integrated IDENT/IAFIS is being expeditiously pursued. We recommended that the Department and the DHS pursue expeditiously the development of an integrated version of IDENT/IAFIS that would provide the DHS apprehension and criminal history information to other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. We found that the Department CIO, JMD, and the FBIís CJIS Division have taken several actions that will promote the implementation of an interoperable IDENT/IAFIS system. Examples of these actions are:

Long-term interoperability solutions developed. The CIO stated that the Department would do whatever is necessary to improve the situation in the short-term, but that it is important to focus on the long-term vision so that the necessary planning can be done. The CIO and JMD developed and submitted to the Policy Coordination Committee two options for a long-term solution to implement a biometric fingerprint system that will effectively meet the security and law enforcement needs of all concerned parties. Both options assume that up to 42 million foreign visitors a year will be searched directly against IAFIS records and that the FBI will have law enforcement access to US-VISIT files. The options also entail modifying existing equipment to take more than two flat fingerprints at consulates and at ports of entry. Under the first option, termed the ďunified approach,Ē the FBI CJIS Division in West Virginia would become the consolidated U.S. Government center for biometric expertise, providing a single source for enrollment, retention, criminal history, and terrorist data.

The CJIS Division would maintain and administer the DHS biometrics databases, including the IDENT lookout and apprehension databases and US-VISIT data, and would provide a dedicated, partitioned AFIS for US-VISIT. The DHS would continue to own its data and set relevant privacy and operating rules to govern its use through MOUs with the CJIS Division. The second option, termed the "enhanced status quo," described a solution in which modified IDENT/IAFIS workstations could be deployed at the visa-issuing consulates and embassies and at primary US-VISIT enrollment stations at the ports of entry to allow the capture of more than two flat fingerprints in order to thoroughly evaluate visitors before they arrive, and to reduce false positives and false negatives.

The DoD has begun establishing the consolidated service center model described in the Departmentís option one. The DoD is implementing the same type of dedicated, partitioned AFIS that the FBI would provide for US-VISIT data, and has already begun building the system. The DoD, like the DHS, has privacy concerns with its fingerprint data. In addition, the DoD has taken action to ensure that all the fingerprints it collects from military detainees and known and suspected terrorists are interoperable with IAFIS. On February 2, 2004, the DoDís CIO announced a new requirement for all existing DoD fingerprint collection systems to be upgraded to become interoperable with IAFIS by December 31, 2004.

Fast Capture technology. On September 4, 2004, the Department, through the National Institute of Justice, issued a solicitation due by November 8, 2004, for fast capture fingerprint/palm print technology. The goal "is to fund the development and demonstration of technology that will quickly capture ten rolled-equivalent fingerprints and/or palm prints; significantly improve the fingerprint and palm print image quality over current technologies; reduce the failure to enroll rate (due to poor quality) over current technologies; and be affordable, rugged, portable, relatively unobtrusive in size and deployable in the near future."

Planned IDENT/IAFIS modifications to track immigration violators in IAFIS. In the Departmentís FY 2005 Budget Request, JMD requested $5 million to start work on making immigration information accessible to other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, as directed by Congress. If approved, JMD plans to begin designing a modification to IDENT/IAFIS Version 2 to create an Immigration Violator File that will include apprehension data from IDENT and new enrollees submitted by the DHS.66

The FBI has begun planning for "Next Generation IAFIS." We found that the CJIS Division has started developing concepts for Next Generation IAFIS, and has prepared a FY 2006 budget request and justification covering the projected implementation costs. The CJIS Division has requested over $77 million in FY 2006 for Next Generation IAFIS initiatives, which are intended to:

  • Improve fingerprint identification accuracy: The IAFIS uses technology that is almost 10 years old, and the original AFIS specifications required only 95 percent accuracy.67 The latest biometric technologies now offer advances in filtering, feature extraction, and matching algorithms that provide accuracy rates of up to 99.9 percent.

  • Allow flat fingerprint searching capability and increased search capacity. The CJIS Division must implement flat fingerprint capability for IAFIS to process flat fingerprints for background checks for employment and licensing, and for ten-print and latent searches. The budget request estimates that increases in these searches "could easily triple current workloads" and proposes that the IAFIS ten-print search capacity be expanded to accommodate 200,000 searches per day, plus up to 1,000 latent searches per day.

  • Create an Enhanced Terrorist Identification Service. This proposed specialized biometrics database will contain real-time fingerprint data from known and suspected terrorists and wanted persons. Enhanced Terrorist Identification Service will allow submissions of less than ten fingerprint images and will provide a response within seconds that will reflect a status of "no record" or "warning."

  • Implement a "zone" concept. Next Generation IAFIS will enhance the civil fingerprint functionality to allow for the exchange of records between four databases or "zones," one of which will support the Enhanced Terrorist Identification Service database. The zone concept will provide a means for ensuring segregation of DHS US-VISIT records.

The FBI is implementing standard processing for ten flat fingerprints. In April 2004, the CJIS Division published a study with the NIST, the Secret Service, and the states of Ohio, Texas, and New York that examined the feasibility of a "national, rapid, and positive fingerprint-based identification background check system for authorized non-criminal justice [civil] purposes."68 The study analyzed the feasibility of processing fingerprint searches using ten flat, rather than ten rolled, fingerprints through IAFIS and found them comparable to civil fingerprint checks. The results are directly applicable to the handling of US-VISIT fingerprint queries should US-VISIT begin taking ten flat fingerprints. Based on review of a CJIS report, the Compact Council provisionally approved the reportís 6-month implementation option for ten-flat fingerprints, and the CJIS Advisory Policy Board subsequently endorsed the Compact Councilís decision.69 The Council approved the recommendation to accept ten flat fingerprints so long as the reliability meets or exceeds the IAFIS specifications, the FBI identifies a standard for flat capture devices, and there is no degradation to current IAFIS criminal justice services.

Wants and Warrants updates are now provided to the DHS on a daily basis. We recommended that the Department work with the DHS to update IDENT with FBI information on a daily, rather than bi-weekly, basis. Working together with DHS on an accelerated schedule, the CJIS Division began to provide daily Wants and Warrants extracts from IAFIS to the DHS on May 17, 2004.

Criminal histories of aliens who have IAFIS hits are made available to Border Patrol agents. We recommended that the Department coordinate with the DHS to establish procedures to ensure that the criminal histories of all aliens who have a lookout or IAFIS hit are provided to and reviewed by the Border Patrol. As part of the DHS expedited deployment, the CBP established and issued written procedures that outlined appropriate steps for handling lookout hits and that ensured that criminal histories of all aliens who have a lookout or IAFIS hit are provided to and reviewed by the Border Patrol.


  1. IDENT/IAFIS OMB Circular A-11, Exhibit 300, FY 2005. This was planned before US-VISIT and may no longer be applicable. Progress has stalled and JMD is not actively pursuing this approach as it awaits further decisions.

  2. These are likely to be false negatives (IAFIS may not return the correct identification decision even if the match is in the IAFIS database).
  3. National Fingerprint-Based Applicant Check Study [N-FACS], FBI CJIS Division, April 5, 2004, p. iii.
  4. The Compact Council is a 15-member group that governs the use of criminal history records maintained by the CJIS Division for non-criminal justice (civil) purposes, per the FBI's National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact. The Compact Council advises the CJIS Advisory Policy Board on civil fingerprint standards.