The FBI’s Billion Dollar Facial Recognition Program

Although they don’t burn nearly as hot as they once did, the flames of fear, anger and patriotism are reignited once again eleven years after the catalyzing terrorist attack. One question comes to mind: “Are we safer now than we were 11 years ago?”

We’ve fought and continue to fight very expensive wars overseas fighting our War on Terror. The wars in the Middle East (whether you support them or not) are costly in blood and money. Here at home, government agencies such as the DHS, FBI and NSA have taken drastic measures over the past decade to “keep us safe” by tracking American citizens, listening in to our phone conversations, monitoring our e-mails, holding databases of iPhone and iPad users and scanning Facebook statuses and conversations for anything that might be construed as “terroristic.”

And let’s not forget the infamous TSA, which employs convicted criminals including sex offenders in order to grope passengers and subject them to X-Ray’s that can see through clothing. And then there are the surveillance drones. About 30,000 of them will be flying in our skies by the year 2020 to keep watch over us.

Instead of actually fighting terrorism, which seemed to be a noble cause in the aftermath of 9/11, they’ve turned this “war on terror” into a “war on freedom” simply by redefining what “terrorism” is, and they are using it against innocent Americans. Like what Rahm Emanuel said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that [is that] it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” It’s as if our government used 9/11 as an excuse to enact legislation that they knew Americans would be in favor of as long as it was aimed at the “bad guys” only to turn it in on us.

New technology is being developed by Lockheed Martin that further enables our “big brother” government in keeping track of us and identifying us. It’s called biometrics. The FBI defines it as “the measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) or behavioral characteristics used for identification of an individual.”

For the past several decades, fingerprints have been primarily used by local and federal law enforcement in the identification of criminals and suspects. The Next Generation Identification is a billion dollar project being implemented by the FBI that they hope will be made national by 2014. Some states have already been testing the technology. It allows the FBI to be able to identify people from facial patterns, voice patterns, DNA and iris patterns in the eye. The NY Daily News reports that “the facial recognition system works in two ways: it can compare an image to the FBI’s massive database of mugshots to pinpoint criminals, and can also track suspects in surveillance footage by honing in on their faces in a crowd.”

This technology has been popularized by television police dramas like CSI where surveillance cameras and biometric software are used to identify suspects by comparing facial structures of a person to those in a database. This is exactly what Next Generation Identification is doing.

Obviously, technology like this can be used to solve crimes more quickly, which is their stated goal. But considering the trend over the past decade in law enforcement where innocent Americans are more and more treated as guilty criminals regardless of evidence or lack thereof, it would not be surprising to find out that this technology will be used to make a gigantic database of as many citizens as surveillance cameras can get their “eyes” on only to be used against us.

Bin Laden is dead, but the “war on terror” wages on. Are all the police state measures worth it just for us to feel safer when they don’t actually make us safer? Or do they make us safer?