CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It has been said that eyes are the windows to a person’s soul. Additionally though, they are also the gateway to a person’s identity.
Many Soldiers who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are familiar with biometrics — which is the collection of iris scans, fingerprints and facial images used to identify an individual.
In fact, forensic science has been around for nearly 100 years, with fingerprints used as a primary means of identification. Today, fingerprints, iris scans, DNA and other biometric traits are used to identify and apprehend persons of interest.
“Many in the military, to include Army intelligence analysts, are unfamiliar with how those collections are planned, exploited, analyzed and turned into a valuable source of information used to protect friendly forces, identify persons of interest for questioning or targeting, provide security to local populations, and protect our homeland,” said Gregory Sieminski, chief, Identity Intelligence Division, National Ground Intelligence Center, known as NGIC.
This activity is known as Biometrically Enabled Intelligence, or BEI, and it “is here to stay as a critical tool for Army intelligence analysts,” Sieminski said.
“BEI has saved countless lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and helped our forces achieve identity dominance in demanding insurgency environments,” Sieminski said.
“Even with these successes, we have realized only a fraction of the potential this capability brings to ‘people-focused’ analysis, regardless of mission, geographic location or operating environment.”
In this digital age, many believe the global proliferation of biometric technology and the ubiquity of identity information present a huge and growing intelligence opportunity for today’s generation of Army analysts.
“Biometrically Enabled Intelligence provides an analytical baseline by resolving identities through high-confidence biometric matching and fusion with other sources of intelligence to positively identify the person in question,” said Cathy Moore, senior intelligence analyst, Biometrics Division, NGIC.
“The Biometric Enabled Watchlist — a Defense Department-wide service managed by NGIC — is the tool that gets the critical conclusions about threat identities from BEI out to the field,” Moore said.
“It places biometric intelligence at the fingertips of our Soldier-sensors by providing the ‘so what’ for the operator at the point of encounter,” Moore said.
For example, during a biometric screening, a watchlist “hit” might reveal that a local national has ties to an insurgent network, leading to denial of his employment at a U.S. military installation overseas. An Army all-source analyst, while conducting intelligence preparation of the battlefield, develops geospatial plots of biometric and other data that reveal the operational patterns of an insurgent improvised explosive device network operating in his unit’s area of operations. A brigade combat team security officer plans focused biometric enrollment operations in conjunction with routine patrolling.
How are these events related? They are a few of the ways biometrics are being integrated into Army all-source intelligence analysis, where it enables warfighters to deny anonymity to adversaries.
Thanks to its proven success in both Iraq and Afghanistan, this capability has grown well beyond its wartime roots. Biometric technology, and its fusion with all-source intelligence, is proving highly relevant to enduring and emerging 21st century threats where individuals seek to conceal their identity.
From Somali pirates to weapons of mass destruction proliferators, human identification is a critical enabler to the full range of military operation.
“As BEI tradecraft is spread beyond its current wartime origins, more and more Army intelligence analysts are learning the power of fusing biometrics data with other, more traditional sources of intelligence,” said Spc. Kama Mountz, of the 500th MI Brigade. “My training has been invaluable in identifying persons of interest in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operation. As in the combat theaters, these individuals seek to conceal their nefarious activities by remaining anonymous.”
Like analysts across the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command force, Mountz has learned that BEI can deny foes that advantage.
“The work we do is not in isolation but rather a collaborative effort across DoD and other government agencies,” Mountz said. “It’s a great feeling at the end of the day to know that we’re all doing our part to protect the homeland.”