Biometric Technology Helping Taliban Forces?

photo illus. by US military

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The US military has long used biometric devices in the global war on terror. But following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, there are concerns that sensitive biometric data might be used by the Taliban. 

The Taliban have seized US military biometrics devices that could aid in the identification of Afghans who assisted coalition forces. The devices, known as HIIDE, for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, were seized during the Taliban’s offensive, learned from a Joint Special Operations Command official and three former U.S. military personnel.

HIIDE devices contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, and are used to access large centralized databases. It’s unclear how much of the U.S. military’s biometric database on the Afghan population has been compromised.

While billed by the U.S. military as a means of tracking terrorists and other insurgents, biometric data on Afghans who assisted the U.S. was also widely collected and used in identification cards, sources said.

An Army Special Operations veteran said it’s possible that the Taliban may need additional tools to process the HIIDE data but expressed concerns that Pakistan would assist with this. “The Taliban doesn’t have the gear to use the data but the ISI do,” the former Special Operations official said, referring to Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. The ISI has been known to work closely with the Taliban.

The U.S. government appears to also have been collecting biometrics from Afghans assisting diplomatic efforts. 

The federal government has collected biometric data from Afghans despite knowing the risks entailed by maintaining large databases of personal information, especially given recent cyberattacks on government agencies and private companies. These efforts are continuing to expand, remarks.