"Problems in searching fingerprint databases have left the American military unable to check fully the identities of thousands of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, raising concerns that they might be releasing suspects prematurely, according to Pentagon officials and documents," the Times reports.
The Defense Department, in the field, has used a mobile system that records fingerprints of suspects, but it cannot always search for a match in other government databases.In a memorandum last February, the Pentagon said the fingerprinting "problem must be rectified as soon as possible" to fight terrorism more effectively. It required that all new electronic fingerprinting systems comply with accepted standards.The situation has improved since then, said John D. Woodward Jr., the director of the Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office. But he added, "We still need to improve..."Mr. Woodward, citing "national security concerns," declined to say how many prints had gone unprocessed as a result. Another official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information, said it exceeded 16,000 at the time of the memorandum.