Yesterday we learned that the US was handing out lists of names of US citizens and Afghan allies to the Taliban, supposedly to help the group waive people through checkpoints. It turns out that may have been the least of our problems. The NY Post has a story today which confirms the Taliban are using handheld biometric scanners, an unknown number of which were left behind by the US. The scanners are connected to a massive database which allows the device to identify every Afghan who worked with the US in the past by iris scans and fingerprints.
Nawazuddin Haqqani, one of the brigade commanders over the Al Isha unit, bragged in an interview with Zenger News that his unit is using US-made hand-held scanners to tap into a massive US-built biometric database and positively identify any person who helped the NATO allies or worked with Indian intelligence. Afghans who try to deny or minimize their role will find themselves contradicted by the detailed computer records that the US left behind in its frenzied withdrawal…
US officials have not confirmed how many of the 7,000 hand-held scanners were left behind or whether the biometric database could be remotely deleted. The US State and Defense departments acknowledged receipt of questions from Zenger for this story on Tuesday. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth said he would forward them to “the right folks” but did not provide answers by press time. State Department press officer Nicole Thompson said the questions were “being worked” inside the agency but also didn’t provide a response. White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Intercept reported 10 days ago that the scanners, which look like cameras with extra fingerprint scanners on top, had fallen into Taliban hands but at the time it wasn’t known if the Taliban would be able to use them or the database of information associated with them.
The devices, known as HIIDE, for Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, were seized last week during the Taliban’s offensive, according to a Joint Special Operations Command official and three former U.S. military personnel, all of whom worried that sensitive data they contain could be used by the Taliban. HIIDE devices contain identifying biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints, as well as biographical information, and are used to access large centralized databases. It’s unclear how much of the U.S. military’s biometric database on the Afghan population has been compromised.
While billed by the U.S. military as a means of tracking terrorists and other insurgents, biometric data on Afghans who assisted the U.S. was also widely collected and used in identification cards, sources said.
“We processed thousands of locals a day, had to ID, sweep for suicide vests, weapons, intel gathering, etc.” a U.S. military contractor explained. “[HIIDE] was used as a biometric ID tool to help ID locals working for the coalition.”
Now it appears that not only does the Taliban have the devices, they have access to a database which may contain biometric information on a majority of the Afghan population. If so, it’s not just Afghans who worked with the US who are now in danger. The Post suggests that Pakistani intelligence (ISI) now have access to the database as well:
Asked about reports that Pakistani intelligence officers were supervising the Al Isha unit’s use of biometric data to interrogate former U.S. allies, Nawazuddin Haqqani didn’t deny the Pakistan connection.
“You are not that naive — you know the answer to that,” he said…
This suggests Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI, has access to America’s biometric database. If Al Isha can identify Indian intelligence sources in Afghanistan, the Pakistanis will pursue them as well.
The HIIDE had some obvious benefits to US soldiers in a country where most people don’t have an ID but letting that database fall into the hands of the Taliban is pretty much a worst case scenario for any US allies who can’t get out of the country by the deadline. A former Afghan Army commander told the NY Post, “They’re going door to door and scanning everyone with biometric scanners, and they’ll knock on my doors anytime now.”
For all of those progressives looking for a clear explanation of how the Biden withdrawal could have been significantly better, here is your answer. We should have made sure to either take the HIIDE devices with us or destroy them and the database they rely on before leaving. Hopefully this mistake can still be rectified by taking out the database, before copies are made.
What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments below!