Denise Lavoie, Associated Press
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As a foreign traveler, Punit Pawar is accustomed to the security when he flies into the United States, so he hardly took notice Tuesday when he was asked to put his 10 fingers on a digital scanner as part of an enhanced security system being rolled out at airports across the country.
"It didn't take much of my time, so it didn't bother me," said Pawar, a citizen of India and a student at Boston's Northeastern University. "I'm OK with it, if this is what they need to do for security."
Since 2004, nonresidents traveling internationally have been required to allow airport personnel to scan their two index fingers at airports as part of a program called United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT). But now, foreign travelers will be asked to scan all 10 fingers, an enhancement the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hopes will help officials more closely monitor watch lists of terrorist suspects, criminals and immigration law violators.
Boston's Logan International Airport, where two of the passenger planes involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks took off, became the third airport to use 10-finger scanners last week. Dulles International Airport, serving Washington, D.C., began using the devices in November; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport began using the new system this month.
Seven other airports are scheduled to start using the new system by the end of February, including Chicago O'Hare, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Orlando and New York's Kennedy.
By the end of the year, the devices are expected to be running in all the nation's international airports, as well as seaports and border points.
Robert Mocny, director of the US-VISIT program, said the new device scans fingerprints from travelers and within a matter of seconds matches them against more than 3.2 million fingerprints of people in FBI and Department of Defense databases. Mocny said going from two fingerprints to 10 improves matching accuracy and reduces the number of false matches.
"By having this additional data, the machine will be able to say with more certainty that this is the person, this is a match," Mocny said after officials used the new scanners on international travelers arriving at Logan Tuesday.