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GAMBIA-L  January 2004

GAMBIA-L January 2004

Subject:

U.S. starts fingerprint program For Visitors- Culled From CNN

From:

Abdoul Njie <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

The Gambia and related-issues mailing list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 5 Jan 2004 21:15:31 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

U.S. starts fingerprint program
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Up to 28 million visitors to the United States now
have to stop for photographs and fingerprinting under a new government
program launched Monday and intended to make it harder for terrorists to
enter the country. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the new
US-VISIT program applies to any visitors who must have a visa to enter the
United States.
By October, all visitors will be required to have a machine-readable
passport or some other method of biometric identification, such as
fingerprints or retina scans.

"As the world community combats terrorism ... you're going to see more and
more countries going to a form of biometric identification to confirm
identities," Ridge said.  Citizens from more than two dozen countries,
mostly in Europe, aren't required to carry a visa if their visit is less
than 90 days. Visitors from those countries are exempt.

Visitors from exempt countries who are working in the United States,
however, require a work visa, and therefore must leave their fingerprints
and photographs with U.S. authorities.
"We want visitors from abroad to continue to come to the United States, but
we also want to secure our borders," Ridge said.

FIRST STEPS
Ridge acknowledged that US-VISIT -- United States Visitor and Immigrant
Status Indicator Technology -- will only cover a small fraction of the
estimated 500 million annual visitors to the United States, but he said the
program was but the "first significant step in a series of steps" the
government plans to take in the coming months and years.

Outside of Europe, the exempt countries include Japan, Singapore, Australia,
New Zealand and Brunei. Citizens of Canada generally do not need a visa to
enter the United States.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the goal of the US-VISIT
program is to track the millions of people who come to the United States
every year on business, student and tourist visas --and to use the
information as a tool against terrorists.

Critics say the broad-reaching program will cause unnecessary travel delays
and may never prove to be effective. "There's so much information in such
volumes that there's a limit to what any analyst can absorb," said Larry
Johnson, an aviation security consultant.

Faiz Rehman, president of the National Council of Pakistani-Americans,
points to the disruption in travel. "Without proper training, there will be
long lines, there will be missed flights, there will be people who would be
wrongly stopped," Rehman said.

BRAZILIAN BACKLASH
Outside the United States, there has been a backlash as well.
In reaction to the U.S. policy, Brazil last week began fingerprinting and
photographing American visitors arriving at Sao Paulo's airport. Brazil's
Foreign Ministry has also requested that Brazilians be removed from the U.S.
list. Ridge said that "if the Brazilian government thinks it's in their
interests (to fingerprint and photograph Americans), so be it." "It's not
two standards, one for the United States and one for the rest of the world,"
he said.

The U.S. program, which has a budget of $380 million, will require an
estimated 24 million visitors to submit two finger scans and have a
photograph taken upon entering any of 115 airports or 14 seaports.

Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger said once screeners become
proficient, the extra security will take only 10 to 15 seconds per person,
The Associated Press reported.
Inkless fingerprints will be taken and checked instantly against a digital
database for criminal backgrounds and any terrorist lists. The process will
be repeated when visitors leave the United States as an extra security
measure and to ensure they complied with visa limitations.

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