TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: ident.txt

Identification: A Move Toward the Future

         IDENTIFICATION:  A MOVE TOWARD THE FUTURE                         
                     Bruce J. Brotman 
             Special Agent and Section Chief 
       Automation, Research and Development Section 
               FBI Identification Division 
                     Rhonda K. Pavel                           
                Computer Systems Analyst 
       Automation, Research and Development Section 
               FBI Identification Division                         
     No one in law enforcement today could deny that the years 
ahead will bring many changes and challenges to the profession. 
Witness the transformation that has already taken place with 
regard to economics, demographics, politics, and technology. 
Each of these factors has already had major implications for law 
enforcement.  And there is every reason to believe their impact 
will continue to have a profound effect. 
     Current trends and developments indicate that in the years 
to come, fingerprint identification will play a much wider role 
in law enforcement.  This is why the FBI's Identification 
Division is pursuing a strategic plan to rebuild and improve 
essential services for its criminal justice users.  By 1995, 
the FBI will have in operation a new system providing greatly 
expanded fingerprint identification services that will provide 
immeasurable benefits to law enforcement and other users 
     In the early 1960s, the FBI realized that the future of its 
Identification Division would be closely tied to its ability to 
incorporate automated technology into fingerprint processing 
operations.  The subsequent research and development (R&D) 
initiatives of the Identification Division produced some of the 
first steps toward fingerprint automation. 
     During the ensuing years, commercial companies ventured
into the field of fingerprint automation.  Fingerprint
identification technology flourished and grew more
sophisticated.  Several manufacturers developed automated
fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) integrating automated
10-print and latent processing capabilities into one system.  By
the 1990s, these and other companies introduced the concept of
"live-scan technology," a revolutionary new process requiring
neither inked cards nor chemicals.
     Many of the Identification Division's contributors
capitalized on these emerging technologies to initiate their own
automation projects and acquired their own AFISs.  However, the
simple expansion of automated capabilities did not provide a
cure-all for the problems that have traditionally plagued
criminal identification efforts.
     While these technological improvements afford law
enforcement with newer, more advanced tools for performing their
jobs, the ability to execute fast and efficient nationwide
criminal searches remains deficient.  Primarily, there are no
guiding standards to ensure compatibility among dissimilar AFISs
manufactured by competing commercial vendors.  And although many
States have automated systems, their inability to communicate
with incompatible AFISs severely limits their effectiveness.
Factors Precipitating Improvements
     The Identification Division realized the need for a
more cohesive system to link local, State, and Federal law
enforcement agencies.  Subsequently, division personnel began to
examine their own operations to identify those areas that needed
to be upgraded.
     When first implemented, the technological developments
pioneered by the Identification Division were state-of-the-art.
However, in the intervening years, the industry made great
strides toward producing equipment that was even more responsive
to the specialized needs of the law enforcement community.  But,
unfortunately, the division was not able to obtain these latest
technological innovations.  Therefore, the acquisition of new
hardware with improved capabilities emerged as a major factor in
the division's strategic planning.
    In addition, enacted legislation also influenced the
division's long-range planning efforts.  Pursuant to the
Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, the Attorney General mandated the
FBI to ensure that the data in its automated systems were
complete, accurate, and immediately available in order to
identify felons who attempt to purchase firearms.  Also, the
Airports Security Act and recently enacted banking laws required
screening of applicants for criminal histories.  Implementation
of these capabilities impacted considerably on the FBI's already
overburdened automated system.
Methodology for Achieving Improvements
     In June 1989, the FBI took steps to improve its essential
identification services to its users by enlisting the assistance
of the NCIC Advisory Policy Board (APB) to review the
Identification Division's strategies and plans for automation
and to make recommendations.  Together, the Identification
Division and the Identification Services Subcommittee of the
NCIC APB produced a conceptual road map for "revitalization" of
the division.
     Essentially, the plan reflects a partnership between
Federal, State, and local law enforcement to ensure that the
Identification Division will be in a position to meet the
increasing needs of its users into the 21st century.  It focuses
on the development and implementation of a complete Integrated
Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).  The basis
of this new national concept is an on-line image transmission
network that interfaces law enforcement agencies nationwide.
     Besides updating processes and technology, the greatest
benefit would be accrued by relocating the division.  Primarily,
it would not be possible to install new technology in the
Identification Division's current facilities at FBI
Headquarters, while simultaneously maintaining current
operations.  Therefore, the total plan for improvements has
become one of revitalization and relocation.
     To this end, the FBI conducted a relocation study, which
led to the selection of a site in Clarksburg, West Virginia, as
the location for a new facility to house IAFIS equipment and
operations.  The design for the planned, multilevel building
allows for the entire division to be housed within one location.
More importantly, however, it will provide for the required
expandability and flexibility to accommodate the new IAFIS.
     The envisioned future system of the Identification Division
is the IAFIS, which will be developed using as its main premise
the electronic or "paperless" submission of fingerprint cards
and related documents.  Basically, the system allows a suspect
to be fingerprinted at the booking station using live-scan
technology, thereby eliminating fingerprint cards and documents
at every step of the process.  Then, the fingerprint images and
personal data will be processed by a local AFIS and
electronically transmitted to a State identification bureau for
processing.  If no identification is made, the data will be
forwarded to the FBI's Identification Division.  There, it will
be processed by a highly advanced AFIS, allowing for an
electronic response to the booking station within hours.
     The IAFIS will be developed using integrated architecture,
modular design, and integrated implementation.  Primarily,
implementation of IAFIS will involve the integration of three
new automation efforts:
     *  An Image Transmission Network (ITN) for paperless
        fingerprint submission and processing,
     *  Acquisition of a new advanced AFIS, and 
     *  An upgraded Interstate Identification Index (III). 
The Image Transmission Network                                    
     The Image Transmission Network (ITN) will eliminate the 
submission of hard-copy fingerprint cards and other documents.
To accomplish this, live-scan fingerprinting technology will be
used at the local level to create and to transmit electronic
fingerprint images for processing.  The fingerprint images and
related data may either be processed by a local AFIS,
transmitted directly to the State identification bureau, or if
no identification is made at the State level, transmitted
electronically and processed through the FBI's AFIS.
     Ultimately, the ITN system will process the equivalent of
over 70,000 fingerprint card submissions per day and
electronically return a response to a criminal inquiry within 2
hours of the division's receipt of the request.  The ITN should
be fully operational by June 1995.  Full operation will be
achieved through a three-phased integration of ITN functions.
     Integrating the functions
     The first phase involves designing and building a prototype
system at FBI Headquarters to demonstrate and test a paperless
environment for processing live-scan and hard-copy submissions
and various document receipts.  States participating in this
effort will be identified by the Identification Services
Subcommittee of the NCIC Advisory Policy Board.  Using a
prototype approach allows the FBI to develop the ITN while
maintaining the flexibility necessary for successful integration
into the IAFIS.  The prototypes final design will lead to
detailed specifications for the ITN.
     These specifications will form the basis for the second
phase, in which pilot States will be selected to submit
electronic 10-print transactions.  The final phase involves
expanding the pilot and installing it at the new facility in
West Virginia.
     Storing and retrieving automated fingerprint images

     A successful paperless environment depends heavily on an
Image Storage and Retrieval (ISR) system to capture, store, and
retrieve electronic fingerprint images.  The Image Transmission
Network will incorporate an ISR system to store both rolled and
plain impressions in digital form in an image data base.
     Replacing the Identification Division's current manual
filing system with the ISR system offers several advantages.
Essentially, problems inherent in a file the size and complexity
of the Identification Division's--out-of-file conditions, large
numbers of misfiled prints, and heavy consumption of time and
labor for manual filing and refiling--will be eliminated.  In
addition, these fingerprint images can be transmitted to remote
users over the NCIC telecommunications network.
     Eliminating paper with hardware
     It is anticipated that not all contributors will be
submitting data electronically by the beginning of ITN
operations.  Therefore, some hard-copy processing will still be
required.  To support this requirement, the paper cards and
documents will be converted, upon receipt, to an electronic
format identical to that of electronic submissions.  This
conversion process will use new technology, specifically
fingerprint card and document scanners and an Intelligent
Character Recognition (ICR) system to provide electronic imaging
capabilities for ITN.
     The ICR system will convert text into computer processable
characters for direct entry into the data base, thereby reducing
the amount of manual data entry.  The resulting increase in
productivity will decrease the turnaround time to contributors.
     For the most part, these three subsystems (fingerprint card
scanners, document scanners, and the ICR system) will constitute
the hardware solution to the final step in eliminating paper
from fingerprint processing.  Their use will provide a
more-efficient identification and criminal recordkeeping service
to the law enforcement community.
     Providing communication among AFISs
     In addition to the new hardware, the Image Transmission
Network will use a standard to provide a common interface for
all AFISs.  This standard is being developed as an American
National Standards Institute standard in conjunction with the
National Institute of Standards and Technology, AFIS and
live-scan users, and equipment vendors.
     Several benefits will be realized from the use of this
standard.  First, an acceptable standard fulfilling all the
information requirements of the current system will support the
direct, on-line submission of fingerprint image and
identification data.  It will also specify image compression
algorithms for storage and transmission that will reduce costs
for all agencies.  Finally, it will establish a universal means
of communication among all AFISs, allowing for enormous gains in
An Advanced AFIS
     The minutiae-based AFIS will include a 10-print system for
searching incoming fingerprint requests, as well as a latent
fingerprint subsystem.  Its objectives are to accelerate the
processing of 10-print search requests and to improve
identification of latent fingerprints through the use of
advanced technology.
     The Identification Division's current method of searching
fingerprint characteristics requires full NCIC fingerprint
classification (NCIC-FPC).  This procedure, which necessitates
extensive training, will be replaced by one that requires only
pattern-level classification.  In this regard, a set of hardware
and software requirements to classify fingerprints at the
pattern level (e.g., arch, tented arch, right loop, whorl, etc.)
automatically will be researched.  Since manual fingerprint
classification is labor-intensive and time-consuming, its
elimination will directly affect the Identification Divisions
responsiveness to its contributors.
     New minutiae matchers will be required to efficiently
satisfy the total projected processing requirements for
fingerprint matching in the new AFIS.  In addition, the AFIS
will employ newer latent fingerprint processing technology and
features not in the Identification Divisions current system.
Use of current technology will yield better quality data with
which to work.  This, in turn, will equate to higher accuracy
rates.  AFIS will also search new 10-print records against a
file of previously unidentified latents, as well as searching
latents against other latents.
The Interstate Identification Index
     The current Interstate Identification Index (III) will be
upgraded to expand its on-line services for its 62,000 users.
These improvements include implementation of the National
Fingerprint File (NFF) concept; access to more criminal history
data; the capability to transmit, store, and retrieve on-line
electronic images of mug shots; and an upgrade of the technology
base of III for supporting the overall workload.
     The National Fingerprint File
     The National Fingerprint File (NFF) concept to decentralize
the Nation's criminal history records system is being
incorporated into the current system and interfaced with III.
Participating States submit to the FBI only their first arrest
fingerprint card for each subject.  The Identification Division
then establishes pointers identifying those States in which a
person has an arrest record.  When III receives an on-line
request for a criminal history that contains such a pointer, it
notifies the appropriate State to transmit the record to the
requesting agency.  As more States participate in this concept,
it will reduce the criminal fingerprint processing workload of
the Identification Division while increasing the balance of
responsibilities at the State level.
     On-line criminal history records
     Presently, the Identification Division has 8.8 million
individual criminal history records that are not available for
immediate identification of felons because only their personal
descriptor data are automated.  The arrest data for those who
are currently active will also be automated.  III users now have
direct access to arrest histories of 14 million individuals.
This effort will greatly increase that number.
     Access to mug shots
     The FBI is also exploring the integration of an Interstate
Photo System (IPS) into III to provide users the capability to
enter, maintain, and retrieve a subject's photograph.  The intent
is to allow an individual's mug shot to be sent to a police
station or another designated location for visual confirmation
of the person's identity by the officer on the scene.
     Crosschecking between indices
     Enhancements will be made to III to provide full
interaction between the NCIC wanted persons index and the III
name index.  As a result, any inquiry into one index will
initiate an automatic inquiry of the other.  Such crosschecking
will increase the number of III on-line inquiries from the
current volume of 77,000 per day to 600,000 per day, over a
sevenfold increase.
     Expansion of hardware
     New hardware employing upgraded technology will be acquired
to expand or replace portions of the III system.  This equipment
upgrade will provide an adequate, but expandable, baseline of
processing power to satisfy the projected requirements for users
and for the integrated systems that are part of IAFIS.  Users
will have on-line access through the NCIC telecommunications
system, and on-line operations will be maintained without
     In addition to its coordination with State and local
entities, the Identification Division is also working with other
Federal agencies that have embarked on their own automated
efforts.  For example, the division is fully supportive of the
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) initiative to
establish live-scan stations at U.S. ports of entry to
communicate on-line with a central AFIS.  One INS goal is to
identify individuals with prior illegal entry arrests before
they gain entry into the country.  Design of IAFIS will include
INS's specialized requirements.
     The U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Postal Service also have
specialized identification needs.  The Identification Division
is cooperating with these agencies to ensure that their ultimate
systems are  compatible with, and any particular requirements
they have are incorporated into, IAFIS.  This will eliminate
duplication of effort and ultimately result in a savings to the
     The Identification Division has also undertaken a
collaborative technical effort with the United Kingdom (U.K.)
Home Office.  The technical staffs of both organizations will
pool their resources into a joint effort to achieve the
development of a faster, more improved AFIS.  The cooperative
U.S. and U.K. scientific and technological programs leading to
development of AFIS will support both organizations efforts to
further worldwide fingerprint searching and identification.  The
fruits of this labor will support all of law enforcement, from
local police agencies to national and international
     The goal of the FBI's Identification Division is to rebuild
and to improve essential identification services to its criminal
justice users.  This includes meeting not only the needs of the
users but also the challenge of technological advances that have
created incompatible State automated fingerprint identification
     IAFIS will return enormous dividends to a society plagued
by violent crimes committed by repeat offenders.  It will become
a valuable tool to law enforcement officers attempting to
identify sophisticated criminals who prey upon society.  The
safety of the public will be served by the expeditious removal
of these felons from the streets.
     To achieve this, the Identification Division is cooperating
with Federal, State, and local agencies to weave their
requirements into the design of IAFIS.  Doing so will ensure
that the FBI is in a position to meet the law enforcement
community's growing needs.  In essence, IAFIS will provide the
impetus required to propel the Identification Division and all
of law enforcement into the 21st century.

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