U.S. Customs Busts 1st Illegal Alien Via New Facial-Recognition Software at D.C. Airport

By Craig Bannister | August 23, 2018 | 2:11pm EDT
(Screenshot: U.S. CBP video)

On Wednesday - only the third day using its new, cutting-edge facial comparison biometric system - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) recorded their first illegal alien bust utilizing the new technology, arresting a Congolese man posing as a Frenchman.

When a 26-year-old illegal alien traveling from Sao Paulo, Brazil presented a French passport to the CBP officer conducting primary inspections, CBP employed its new facial comparison biometric technology - which confirmed the man was not a match to the passport he presented.

As the CBP officer referred the traveler to secondary screening for a comprehensive examination, he noticed that the traveler became visibly nervous. A search revealed the man’s authentic Republic of Congo identification card concealed in his shoe.

The impostor intercepted at Washington Dulles International Airport was the first such impostor detected using the new technology.

“Facial recognition technology is an important step forward for CBP in protecting the United States from all types of threats,” said Casey Durst, CBP's Director of the Baltimore Field Office. “Terrorists and criminals continually look for creative methods to enter the U.S. including using stolen genuine documents.”

“The new facial recognition technology virtually eliminates the ability for someone to use a genuine document that was issued to someone else,” Durst said, praising the new screening tool.

IAD is one of 14 early adopter airports to launch the use of facial recognition technology to expedite the entry inspection process of arriving international passengers and began the enhanced entry process on August 20, 2018. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority partnered with CBP at Washington-Dulles International Airport to deploy biometric entry and exit technology using facial comparison to provide additional security and to improve efficiency for international travelers.

U.S. Citizens who are entering or exiting the country are generally required to be in possession of a valid U.S. passport – but, U.S. citizens can choose to opt out of the biometric screening, CBP’s website explains:

“At this time, CBP does not require U.S. Citizens to have their photos captured when entering or exiting the country. U.S. Citizens who request not to participate in this biometric collection process may notify a CBP Officer or an airline or airport representative in order to seek an alternative means of verifying their identity and documents.”

CBP notes that the new technology speeds traveler screening, makes it less intrusive, and is based on the technology cell phone users have been enjoying:

"We found collecting facial images is easy for both travelers and CBP Officers. The technology is intuitive and hassle-free, with traveler identity matches made quickly. The fact that mobile device users now have the option to use biometrics to unlock their phones also helped shape our decision."

U.S. Customs touts new facial recognition software as traveler benefit. (Source: U.S. CBP)


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