For the past decade and a half, the US military has been developing and improving a secret weapon that it can now discreetly deploy anywhere in the world. It lacks, yes, firepower , but its role in many of the US military operations is irreplaceable.
Its name is ABIS (Automated Biometric Information System) and it is fundamentally a database that contains millions of images of faces, irises, fingerprints and genetic information of 74 million people who have been in Contact with military personnel stationed abroad, whether they are allied soldiers or suspected terrorists.
It all started in the midst of a military offensive in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004, the head of the biometrics department of the US Department of Defense, John D. Woodward, wrote a brief report in which he stated that ” in a war without borders, uniforms or defined battle lines, knowing who an enemy is is essential . “
Then, since Barack Obama’s entry into the White House until today, the US military has invested more than 345 million dollars in technology for the development of biometric databases.
Glenn Krizay, director of the Defense Forensic and Biometrics Agency (DFBA), responsible for the maintenance of ABIS, explains it in these terms in a document that OneZero had access to after resorting to the Freedom of Information Law:
“Nulling the anonymity of our adversaries allows us to optimize our lethality. It’s like tearing the camouflage net of the enemy’s ammunition depot.”
Thousands of enemies identified thanks to ABIS
In the first half of 2019 alone, ABIS has been used thousands of times to biometrically identify foreign nationals on the battlefield. Some of them are members of a “Biometric Watch List” (between 2008 and 2017, 213,000 new names were added to the list) that allows people of interest to be automatically identified not only on the battlefield, but also through surveillance systems. military installations and border crossings.
To that is added that ABIS is connected to the biometric database of the FBI (which in turn is connected to that of multiple state and local police) and that it is currently working to do the same with that of the NSA. In this way, a US agency practically unknown to the general public would be building a surveillance system with a practically global scope, which continues to collect new data wherever its army is deployed .
According to a report by the US Government Accountability Office, its Department of Defense has detained or killed more than 1,700 people worldwide between 2008 and 2017 thanks to biometric evidence . Despite this, tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) indicate that the ABIS system still makes a lot of errors in very specific populations, such as African American women, because of racial and gender biases .