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I 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.