House Bill Aims to Formalize Biometric Intelligence Sharing with US Allies

Multifactor BiometricsA new piece of legislation aimed at facilitating the sharing of biometric intelligence on foreigners posing a potential security threat to the US has passed through the House Homeland Security Committee. Dubbed the “Biometric Identification Migration Alert Program (BITMAP) Authorization Act of 2018”, the bill passed by a vote of 20-7.

The BITMAP program entails the sharing of both biometric and biographic data on foreign nationals between the US and its partner governments. The aim, in the bill’s wording, is to use this data “to identify, prevent, detect, and interdict high risk individuals identified as national security, border security, or terrorist threats who may attempt to enter the United States utilizing illicit pathways;” and it would entail the comparison of such data against US resources including the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database and its Next Generation Identification database, the Department of Defense’s Automated Biometric Identification System, and the IDENT database.

The bill also includes certain oversight components, with the Secretary of Homeland Security required to inform House and Senate committees on homeland security of any new BITMAP agreements with foreign partners at least 60 days before they come into effect, and to provide annual reports on BITMAP’s effectiveness.

In announcing the successful vote on the BITMAP bill, its backers, Texas Republican Michael McCaul and Massachusetts Democrat Bill Keating, emphasized that the BITMAP program was first implemented in 2011, asserting that it “has identified several hundred known or suspected terrorists in addition to criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers, murderers, child predators, and dangerous gangs like MS-13.” The new bill therefore appears to be aimed at providing a legal basis for the program that has thus far been missing.

Now that it has passed the House Homeland Security Committee vote, the bill will advance to the House of Representatives for further scrutiny.

July 27, 2018 – by Alex Perala