Thu, Sep 13, 2007 - Page 6 News List

US to take 10 fingerprints


The US is moving to tighten immigration and customs controls, which it says are vital to keep terrorists at bay six years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Under plans that have been announced, foreign travelers will need to provide 10 digital fingerprints on arrival instead of two currently, and their personal data will be transmitted to the US before their plane takes off.

By the end of the year, virtually every container that comes into the country by sea will be screened amid concerns over possible smuggling of nuclear weapons, security officials said.

"We must move forward aggressively to build on our success to keep pace with our enemies," Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff said.

In November, the US will begin implementing the plan requiring travelers to give 10 digital fingerprints on arrival.

Ten US airports will initially have the capability to collect the 10 prints before all ports of entry are covered by the plan by the end of next year, Chertoff told a Congressional hearing this week that reassessed US ability to ward off terror threats.

All US embassies and other posts issuing visas to visitors will, by the end of this year, be able to collect the 10 prints for verification at the points of entry.

"Capturing 10 fingerprints will allow us to search databases for latent terrorist fingerprints," Chertoff said. "If we can prevent dangerous people from infiltrating our borders then we have dismantled a large part of the threat."

US border procedures were considerably tightened after the 2001 attacks.

To supplement these measures, official said, new rules have been formulated requiring international airlines to provide US authorities their passenger lists before boarding is completed and before the plane takes off.

The rules will be effective next February.

"Through the advance passenger information system, we currently get the information after wheels up. We're moving to get it before the plane pulls back from the gate," said Russ Knocke, spokesman for the homeland security department.

When the rule takes effect, the department will perform watch-list checks against this verified passenger data to determine whether someone on a flight should not be allowed to take off in the airplane.


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