Americans Condemned Afghans to Death

 

Afghan BiometricsI was vaguely aware of the extensive biometric data collection by American forces in Afghanistan. I never imagined it was so terribly efficient. Reportedly, up to 80% of the Afghan population, presumably adult population, have been captured with iris, fingerprint or DNA data and some level of notation about the individual. This was supposed to help deny Taliban agents access to villages, as they would pop up as strangers, not in the system as locals. The data became a basis of arrest, trial, and conviction of bombers or anyone who got his fingerprints on a piece that went into a bomb. AND. This information was never safeguarded, never compartmentalized, never rigged for U.S. remote data destruction. This is an intelligence and human catastrophe well beyond any managed by any of our alphabet soup agencies in the Cold War. The biometric data may well prove more harmful than all the tradition military equipment we left behind, written about and depicted in cool graphics.

Now the Taliban’s most sophisticated wing, the Haqqani Network, backed by Pakistani ISI intelligence advisers, is going door to door in Afghanistan. We may have abandoned thousands of hand-held portable scanners, with which everyone can be checked against the master database, that we allowed the Afghan “national” government to nominally control, in a Kabul office now in the hands of the Taliban and their Pakistani senior partners. The results are terrifying and were entirely foreseeable by those running the program right up to the final days.

The massive database and query program should have been rigged with a self-destruct routine that should have been executed at least the night our senior military brass directed the abandonment of Bagram Air Base. Public Intelligence, an independent watchdog organization with original reporting cited in major world media stories, wrote about the program, without flagging the massive risk, in 2014. Public Intelligence writers’ main concern in “Identity Dominance” was the apparently unchallengeable, but uncorroborated, testimony a fingerprint had in a young Afghan man’s trial for conspiracy in a bomb-making plot.

All biometric data collected in Afghanistan is ultimately sent back to the DOD’s Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) located in West Virginia, where it is stored and also shared with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI.  Partnerships with other nations also allow the DOD to run data against biometrics collected by foreign governments and law enforcement.

Enroll Everyone

Though the use of biometrics is relatively new for U.S. forces, collection efforts in Afghanistan have become ubiquitous, taking in data on large swaths of the population from government officials to local villagers.  In 2009, it was reported that even foreign journalists covering the war in Afghanistan would be required to provide their biometric data before being accredited and provided access to military facilities.  The collection of biometric data is viewed as being so essential to the war effort that the Afghan Ministry of Interior was enlisted to help run a program called Afghan 1000, which provides a comprehensive framework for collecting biometric data on the citizens of Afghanistan.  The program established a goal of enrolling eighty percent of the country’s population by 2012, covering nearly 25 million people.  While the actual enrollment numbers are not public, the Afghan 1000 program has been in operation for several years, collecting data for every traveler passing through Kabul International Airport, border crossings and Afghan Population Registration Department offices throughout the country.

The stated goal of the Afghan effort is no less than the collection of biometric data for every living person in Afghanistan.  At a conference with Afghan officials in 2010, the commander of the U.S. Army’s Task Force Biometrics Col. Craig Osborne told the attendees that the collection of biometric data is not simply about “identifying terrorists and criminals,” but that “it can be used to enable progress in society and has countless applications for the provision of services to the citizens of Afghanistan.”  According to Osborne, biometrics provide the Afghan government with “identity dominance” enabling them to know who their citizens are and link actions with actors.  “Your iris design belongs only to you and your left and right irises are different,” Osborne said at the conference.  “A name can be changed or altered illegally or even legally, but once your iris is formed at the age of six months, it cannot be altered, duplicated or forged.”

This system, this program of programs, is inherently deadly to the Afghan people. That top leaders in our military and in our intelligence community did not recognize and act to strongly mitigate the risks they were imposing on other people’s lives is just one more boulder that should be dropped on them in condemnation. Public Intelligence provided a link to a copy of the For Official Use Only (lowest level of classification, supposed to prevent unrestricted public release) U.S. Army Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) product the “2011 U.S. Army Commander’s Guide to Biometrics in Afghanistan.” I read that copy and found not a chapter, not a paragraph, not a word of caution about the massive digital IED they were strongly encouraging commanders to help construct.

Now the Taliban and their Pakistani partners are detonating the daisy-chained digital data bomb, one door, one checkpoint at a time. Zengler News reported in-depth on August 28, 2021:

EXCLUSIVE: First-Ever Interview With Terror Leader Who’s Hunting Americans and Allies in Afghanistan
In a rare interview, a Taliban commander confirms the existence of a special unit called Al Isha using U.S. data to hunt enemies.

Nawazuddin Haqqani, one of the brigade commanders over the Al Isha unit, bragged in an interview with Zenger News, that his unit is using U.S.-made hand-held scanners to tap into a massive U.S.-built biometric database and positively identify any person who helped the NATO allies or worked with Indian intelligence. Afghans who try to deny or minimize their role will find themselves contradicted by the detailed computer records that the U.S. left behind in its frenzied withdrawal.

[ . . . ]

U.S. officials have not confirmed how many of the 7,000 hand-held scanners were left behind or whether the biometric database could be remotely deleted.

Now one of the chief terrorists in Afghanistan boasts:

“We’re in control of the Interior Ministry and the national biometric database they kept. We have everyone’s data with us now — including journalists and so-called human rights people.”

[ . . . ]

Now that identity dominance belongs to the Taliban. “We are not collecting new data — we already have it,” said Nawazuddin Haqqani. “The group [Al Isha] just keeps an eye that if someone has worked for America or the National Directorate of Security [the former Afghan government’s intelligence agency].” The database is also used to find any person who worked with British, European or Indian intelligence services, he said.

[ . . . ]

Asked about reports that Pakistani intelligence officers were supervising the Al Isha unit’s use of biometric data to interrogate former U.S. allies, Nawazuddin Haqqani didn’t deny the Pakistan connection. “You are not that naive — you know the answer to that,” he said. “But what I can say is, it’s not necessary to train everyone in Pakistan. The Emirs [local Taliban chieftains] are quite capable of training the foot soldiers to handle the equipment.”

So, we have betrayed every Afghan whoever came in any positive contact with us AND we have betrayed sources working for all our real allies in the area. Indian intelligence agency assets, NATO countries’ assets, all have likely been burned if they were not kept out of the digital panopticon. Add this to the specifications in an Article 32 hearing (preliminary to court-martialing General Milley) or his impeachment, whichever proves more effective. Not one 4-star general or admiral in this current cohort can be allowed to retire with their latest rank and retain that prestige beyond 2022. Republicans must now demand and then legislate a reversion to this cohort’s last permanent ranks, a small but important symbolic rebuke.

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  1. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.  

    • #1
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    • #2
  3. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    Are you saying that potentially every covert operator in the developed world, that is the Five Eyes, every NATO country and every US ally has been revealed to the Taliban, Pakistan, their allies or the highest bidders?

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    Are you saying that potentially every covert operator in the developed world, that is the Five Eyes, every NATO country and every US ally has been revealed to the Taliban, Pakistan, their allies and the highest bidders?

    No, apparently just those who operated in Afghanistan at some point in the past decade or so.

    • #4
  5. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    Are you saying that potentially every covert operator in the developed world, that is the Five Eyes, every NATO country and every US ally has been revealed to the Taliban, Pakistan, their allies and the highest bidders?

    No, apparently just those who operated in Afghanistan at some point in the past decade or so.

    Well, then, not to minimize the already immense danger, but it could have far, far worse.

    • #5
  6. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Sir, what in your professional opinion, could they have been thinking when they neglected to destroy this technology?  Did the departure come as such a surprise that they had to run to catch their flight?  Was it never a consideration to them, do you think?  Did they think someone else would handle it?  I know you can’t read minds.  But what’s the most reasonable explanation?

    • #6
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Sir, what in your professional opinion, could they have been thinking when they neglected to destroy this technology? Did the departure come as such a surprise that they had to run to catch their flight? Was it never a consideration to them, do you think? Did they think someone else would handle it? I know you can’t read minds. But what’s the most reasonable explanation?

    If there was a functioning non-Taliban government, this could be a continuing useful tool. While no one has come out officially or unofficially from our government, I suspect we will end up hearing the Afghans being blamed for not destroying the data and the computers in Kabul.

    • #7
  8. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Clifford A. Brown: The massive database and query program should have been rigged with a self-destruct routine that should have been executed at least the night our senior military brass directed the abandonment of Bagram Air Base

    That would have required some initiative and forethought. Apparently no longer a feature of our DOD command.

    • #8
  9. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    Fiction writers in the 1960s knew enough to have the tapes self-destruct in five seconds.

    And if you think this technology won’t be used on or against US citizens you haven’t downloaded your latest covid passport.  Many people have voluntarily provided their phone (company) fingerprints and a picture of their face and all sorts of other biometric data. It’s a brave new world.

    • #9
  10. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?  

    • #10
  11. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    This makes the strongest case of which I know for Luddite thinking and action. 

    • #11
  12. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    This explains the desperation of Afghani’s trying to get out at the airport in Kabul. This should also be a warning to Americans in the Department of Justice efforts to nationalize policing in the United States that started with Obama, and now has returned in the Biden administration. DOJ Consent Decrees take away local control of law enforcement. Your local police department will be subject to the goals, and whims of political appointees in Washington DC.

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    ‘Biometric data’ sounds scary. Having your picture taken for a passport, driver’s license, to open a bank account, or any number of routine tasks seems not so scary but is providing biometric information.

    The problem isn’t the biometric information, but the intelligence information provided and tied to the biometric information. Those are two different things. If the intelligence agencies had any intelligence whatsover, they would have left the data behind in a very scrambled form so the Taliban would be wrestling with all kinds of internal recriminations. But I guess that would be asking a lot of our not-so-intelligent agencies.  

    • #13
  14. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    For 20 years the USA occupied Afghanistan. There was no great surge of offense against our forces by the Taliban. We left by our own choice. Yet, when we left we behaved as if we were under an attack so immense that we could barely escape. I have to keep saying this…I can’t believe this administration is so dumb and our military commanders are so weak that this was not a purposeful action. What we are seeing was meant to happen. I don’t know why, exactly. I do know that we left behind close to 100 Billion dollars worth of brand new battle-ready equipment that now will be sold by the Taliban and must be replaced by our weapon manufacturers. A lot of money will be made.

    • #14
  15. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?

    Well ask him.  Don’t assume the worst, and avoid cheap shots against someone you disagree with.

    • #15
  16. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Obama, Biden and today’s democrats hate America. They want America to lose and be humiliated. They will train their sites on our economy next. You were warned and yet stubbornly refused to face facts.

    • #16
  17. Mountie Coolidge
    Mountie
    @Mountie

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    Are you saying that potentially every covert operator in the developed world, that is the Five Eyes, every NATO country and every US ally has been revealed to the Taliban, Pakistan, their allies and the highest bidders?

    No, apparently just those who operated in Afghanistan at some point in the past decade or so.

    Well, then, not to minimize the already immense danger, but it could have far, far worse.

    That ship has already sailed. 

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Personnel_Management_data_breach

    • #17
  18. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?

    Well ask him. Don’t assume the worst, and avoid cheap shots against someone you disagree with.

    I know you take alot of incoming fire.  I am glad you post regularly.  Keep at as long as you can.  

    I don’t know, is French a member of Ricochet?  

    My intent was to ask if anyone had seen French speak on these matters.  As someone who followed him fairly closely until the late summer of 2016, I am curious what he has to say about current events.  

    • #18
  19. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?

    Well ask him. Don’t assume the worst, and avoid cheap shots against someone you disagree with.

    I know you take alot of incoming fire. I am glad you post regularly. Keep at as long as you can.

    I don’t know, is French a member of Ricochet?

    My intent was to ask if anyone had seen French speak on these matters. As someone who followed him fairly closely until the late summer of 2016, I am curious what he has to say about current events.

    Here is what David French said recently.  https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/a-series-of-sad-thoughts-on-a-dreadful

    “… to say that military retreats and defeats are always bloody and chaotic does not excuse the Biden administration of responsibility for its particular incompetence. Simply put, if it was determined to pull out (and it absolutely was and is), then it should have put in place a plan to control for one of the obvious potential outcomes, the rapid loss of territory to the Taliban and the collapse of allied morale and allied forces.”

    • #19
  20. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?

    Well ask him. Don’t assume the worst, and avoid cheap shots against someone you disagree with.

    I know you take alot of incoming fire. I am glad you post regularly. Keep at as long as you can.

    I don’t know, is French a member of Ricochet?

    My intent was to ask if anyone had seen French speak on these matters. As someone who followed him fairly closely until the late summer of 2016, I am curious what he has to say about current events.

    Here is what David French said recently. https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/a-series-of-sad-thoughts-on-a-dreadful

    “… to say that military retreats and defeats are always bloody and chaotic does not excuse the Biden administration of responsibility for its particular incompetence. Simply put, if it was determined to pull out (and it absolutely was and is), then it should have put in place a plan to control for one of the obvious potential outcomes, the rapid loss of territory to the Taliban and the collapse of allied morale and allied forces.”

    Thank you. Sad to discover it is behind a paywall.  

    • #20
  21. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Mountie (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    Are you saying that potentially every covert operator in the developed world, that is the Five Eyes, every NATO country and every US ally has been revealed to the Taliban, Pakistan, their allies and the highest bidders?

    No, apparently just those who operated in Afghanistan at some point in the past decade or so.

    Well, then, not to minimize the already immense danger, but it could have far, far worse.

    That ship has already sailed.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Personnel_Management_data_breach

    From Wiki: The first breach, named “X1” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),

    AND

    The attack originated in China

    ***

    They named it appropriately.

    • #21
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    I can’t imagine a more incompetent military maneuver than Biden’s bumbling, and his stubborn refusal to face facts.

    Yes, AND. This goes much deeper and much further into the past. This program matured in the Obama years, and apparently no one thought about the obvious dangers of such data. The military, FBI, and CIA loved the data and thought more was better.

    I have not gone hunting, but I would be surprised if I found a single member of Congress, if there are any unclassified hearings on this, raising a single note of caution. Perhaps someone said “we can’t have any such thing here in America, applied to Americans,” but I will be very pleasantly surprised if anyone on Capital Hill ever expressed concern for such data falling in to the wrong hands.

    Did military lawyer David French raise any concerns?

    Well ask him. Don’t assume the worst, and avoid cheap shots against someone you disagree with.

    I know you take alot of incoming fire. I am glad you post regularly. Keep at as long as you can.

    I don’t know, is French a member of Ricochet?

    My intent was to ask if anyone had seen French speak on these matters. As someone who followed him fairly closely until the late summer of 2016, I am curious what he has to say about current events.

    Here is what David French said recently. https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/a-series-of-sad-thoughts-on-a-dreadful

    “… to say that military retreats and defeats are always bloody and chaotic does not excuse the Biden administration of responsibility for its particular incompetence. Simply put, if it was determined to pull out (and it absolutely was and is), then it should have put in place a plan to control for one of the obvious potential outcomes, the rapid loss of territory to the Taliban and the collapse of allied morale and allied forces.”

    Thank you. Sad to discover it is behind a paywall.

    David French’s sad thoughts don’t come cheap. 

    • #22