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Friday, September 21, 2007      New: Take a Stand

Biometric identity system called 'success' in Iraq

BAGHDAD Iraq has turned to a biometrics identification system to prevent the infiltration of insurgents in the Baghdad government.

Officials said Baghdad has established a database that has been expanding weekly.

Biometrics uses physical or behavioral characteristics to identify people. More than 350,000 sets of fingerprints, photos and retina scans have been deposited in the Iraqi system's database.

Officials said Baghdad, with U.S. assistance, has been operating an automated system to screen civilian workers, police and soldiers, as well as to identify criminals in the military and government.

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Officials said the U.S. military has been training Iraqis to operate the biometrics system, Middle East Newsline reported. They said seven U.S. contractors were mentoring 24 Iraqi government employees to operate the system.

"It has been a tremendous success," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Velliquette, who runs the fingerprint and retina scanning center in Baghdad's International Zone.

"We increase the database by 4,000 to 5,000 each week," Velliquette said.

By the summer of 2008, Iraq would solely operate the system, linked to Defense Department's Biometric Fusion Center, in Clarksburg, W. Va. Officials said the system has helped secure Baghdad's International Zone, which contains U.S. and Iraqi military and diplomatic headquarters.

Officials said the identification system has been used to identify criminals. They said the system helps ensure that only authorized individuals carry firearms.

The Iraqi government has issued identification cards to Iraqi police vetted through the biometric program. Officials said Iraqi police officers without a proper biometrics identification card were relieved of their weapons.

"The Iraqi people need to have confidence in their police," Velliquette said.

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