WASHINGTON (CN) - The FBI refuses to provide information on a massive biometric identification database that can identify noncriminal civilians through iris scans, DNA, and facial and voice recognition, a watchdog claims in court.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, sued the FBI in Federal Court, claiming that the bureau identified more than 7,000 pages of responsive records, but won't release them.
EPIC claims the FBI began posting details on its website about its biometric identification system, known as Next Generation Identification (NGI), in 2009.
"When completed, the NGI system will be the largest biometric database in the world," EPIC says in its complaint. "The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of U.S. citizens."
EPIC claims the NGI system will be able to identify people through fingerprints, iris scans, DNA profiles, voice identification profiles, palm prints and photographs, and will through facial recognition.
"The NGI database will include photographic images of millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects," the complaint states.
The Department of Homeland Security has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" into the system, and wants to integrate it into state and local surveillance systems that may use other surveillance technology, giving the government the capability of real-time matching of live feeds from surveillance cameras, EPIC claims.
There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States, but not all of them will be used for law enforcement purposes, EPIC says in the complaint.
It claims private entities will also have access to the system.
EPIC claims the Orwellian system already is up and running in New York City, where police have been scanning irises of arrestees since 2010 and using a handheld device that "allows officers patrolling the streets to scan irises and faces of individuals and match them against biometric databases."
At least 11 other states participate in the program: Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to the complaint.
EPIC claims it submitted two FOIA request in 2012, seeking records on the FBI's contracts with private contractors Lockheed Martin, IBM, Accenture, BAE Systems Information Technology, Global Science & Technology, Innovation Management & Technology Services, Platinum Solutions, the National Center for State Courts, and any other entities involved with the program.
The FBI said it found 7,380 pages of potentially responsive records but has failed to disclose a single agency record, the complaint states.
EPIC wants to see the records, and wants its FOIA fees waived.
It is represented by house counsel Ginger McCall.