A Contract to Find 'Trustworthy' Iraqi Workers

By Walter Pincus
Monday, October 15, 2007

In August, the U.S. military requested bids on a new biometric credential system to provide identification cards for three Iraqi government ministries.

"Without a strong ID program, anti-Iraqi forces can enter controlled areas and disrupt electrical systems, petroleum transportation and processing facilities," says a statement of work from the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq, which is seeking a "strong credential identification system" for 40,000 employees who work across Iraq for the Oil, Electricity and Water ministries.

"Problems persist with individuals being represented as employees at various sites, with multiple records and duplicate salaries."

"The best solution," according to the work statement, "is to enroll these workers biometrically by taking their fingerprints and other supporting biographical data. . . . This eliminates ghost employees because a duplicate enrollment can be immediately detected."

The fingerprints can also determine "trustworthy" employees because they be checked against the Iraqi Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which contains 300,000 criminal records from the former government of Saddam Hussein, as well as latent fingerprints collected by the United States from roadside bombs and insurgents' weapons.

The winning contractor is to design the system and provide equipment that would work with the Iraqi fingerprint program and the personnel operations of the three Iraqi ministries. The contractor would also provide technical support, program management and training, but the ID system would be in the hands of Iraqis and U.S. government personnel.

The proposal has an important requirement: It "must be compatible with the biometric equipment and database that is being used by the Iraq Ministry of Interior."

The equipment and software being used by the Interior Ministry were developed by Cross Match Technologies Inc. of Palm Gardens, Fla. The Cross Match fingerprint scanner is one used by the Department of Homeland Security in its US-VISIT program, begun in 2005, which requires fingerprint and photo scanning for almost every foreign visitor.

In June 2005, Elaine Dezenski, then a DHS transportation security official, told Congress that international travelers get fingerprinted as part of visa applications and again when they enter and leave the United States.

Earlier this year, James W. Ziglar, the president of Cross Match, told an industry group that more than 5,000 Cross Match fingerprint devices "are installed at border locations and U.S. consular offices abroad, and US-VISIT will commence with full Guardian deployment in late 2007."

Ziglar joined Cross Match in 2005. He left his last government job, as President Bush's commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in December 2002, just before the agency was folded into the Department of Homeland Security

Prior to that he had been Senate sergeant at arms, appointed by his friend, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who was then the majority leader. Last year he drew a $400,000 salary from Cross Match and was awarded stock options worth $225,046, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In September 2006, Dezenski also joined Cross Match as senior vice president for global government affairs at an annual salary of $250,000, another $126,000 in options and what the company described in its SEC filings as a $25,000 signing bonus.

Pamela Rembaum, Cross Match director of investor relations, said the company is aware of the contract proposal. An Army spokesman later said it was awarded on Oct. 9, for $2.3 million, to Ideal Innovations of Arlington.

National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them tofineprint@washpost.com.

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