The Biden administration abandoned biometric devices to the Taliban. And the biometric devices and their associated databases may prove to be the most damaging weapon in the Taliban arsenal.
The Passport Department of the Ministry of Interior has just resumed its operations after almost a month. The Passport Department has announced that they have issued a number of nearly 3K passports in just one day. Most of the people who apply to take a passport and or renew their previously issued passports are trying to leave the country. In order for anyone to receive a passport, the applicants must go through a biometric clearance. Once the biometric clearance is completed, the applicant shall pay the government fee and receive its passport accordingly. The concern regarding the biometric system is that its integrated with other government systems and if a former government employee conduct a biometric check, his/her details will appear. Yesterday two military officers from the ex-government were arrested by the Taliban after they went through a biometric check up at the Passport Department.
Isn’t it great that the Taliban are embracing Big Data?
Initially, it was claimed that the Taliban probably wouldn’t be able to actually make use of the biometrics. Much as with the helicopters that Biden abandoned to the Islamic terrorists, it turns out that they could.
Over the years, to support these military objectives, the Department of Defense aimed to create a biometric database on 80% of the Afghan population, approximately 32 million people at today’s population level. It is unclear how close the military came to this goal.
In addition to the use of biometric data by the U.S. and Afghan military for security purposes, the Department of Defense and the Afghan government eventually adopted the technologies for a range of day-to-day governmental uses. These included evidence for criminal prosecution, clearing Afghan workers for employment and election security.
In addition, the Afghan National ID system and voter registration databases contained sensitive data, including ethnicity data. The Afghan ID, the e-Tazkira, is an electronic identification document that includes biometric data, which increases the privacy risks posed by Taliban access to the National ID system.
It’s too soon after the Taliban’s return to power to know whether and to what extent the Taliban will be able to commandeer the biometric data once held by the U.S. military. One report suggested that the Taliban may not be able to access the biometric data collected through HIIDE because they lack the technical capacity to do so. However, it’s possible the Taliban could turn to longtime ally Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, for help getting at the data. Like many national intelligence services, ISI likely has the necessary technology.
Clearly, they’ve managed.
The debate will be over whose databases they have access to exactly. Are our databases in their hands or just the ones maintained by the Afghan government. But either way it’s not abundantly clear that the Taliban are using biometric databases to screen passengers. This will also allow them to conduct a much more efficient purge and maintain power more effectively.