Afghans who helped the US troops and coalition forces during the 20-years of military operations in the country have one more reason to go in deep hiding out fear of retaliation by the Taliban after The Intercept informed that extremist fighters have reportedly seized US military biometrics equipment.
Unnamed Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) source says that Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE) devices militant confiscated that could expose Afghan helpers since they contain identifying data like iris scans and fingerprints and biographical information.
HIIDE devices can access sensitive information from large, centralized military databases but it’s still not clear how much and if the biometric database on the Afghan population has been compromised.
Pentagon was not only using these devices to track the militants but to also to check for terrorist and criminal activity by gathering unique data on 80% of the Afghan population as well as the biometric details of locals who helped the US military forces and diplomatic efforts, that were used in their ID cards.
According to the International Rescue Committee, more than300,000 Afghan civilians are now exposed to risk od retaliation for being involved with the American mission over the past 20 years though unnamed US Army Special Ops’ source claims Taliban does not have the gear to use the data.
Yet, it’s worth mentioning that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency has the additional equipment to process HIIDE devices’ data that is used to create a “portfolio” imported later into Biometrics Automated Toolset (BAT) identification-processing software as a “digital dossier” that can be scanned against official watch lists for threats.
Human Rights First’s (HRF) chief technology officer Welton Chang, former Army intelligence officer, points that no one has probably thought of what could happen if HIIDE fall into wrong hands, and says US military should think carefully before deploying again such systems in systems like Afghanistan.
Chang also pointed that HRF’s in the process of compiling quick guide on avoiding facial recognition technology and biometrics that can potentially save some people’s lives especially after reports that the Taliban is already conducting door-to-door searches for those who with foreign governments and NGOs.