WASHINGTON – Information coming in from fingerprinting around the globe is proving to be extremely beneficial to efforts in the War on Terror.
Officials have found that many of the foreign fighters and detainees they've fingerprinted have U.S. arrest records — many for drunken driving, passing bad checks and traffic violations, and some of them very lengthy.
The Washington Post reports in Sunday editions that in the weeks and months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the FBI and U.S. military began coordinating the effort of fingerprinting fighters on the battlefield and others pulled in for questioning or detention.
An FBI team sent to Afghanistan in December 2001 interviewed foreign fighters and brought back fingerprint results to the bureau's criminal biometric database. The team found that for every 100 detainees fingerprinted, at least one came up with an arrest record in the U.S.
One of the men fingerprinted was Mohamed al Qahtani. At the time he was captured, he claimed he was in Afghanistan to learn the art of falconry. But when his fingerprints were traced, it turned out he'd been denied entry into Orlando International Airport in August 2001, just a month before the Sept. 11 attacks. The Sept. 11 commission later identified him as someone who was planning to take part in the attacks. Al Qahtani has been referred to as the 20th hijacker. He's currently being held in Guantanamo Bay.
Fingerprints are being sent in from places all over the world, including Pakistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia and North Africa. Officials told the Post that 365 Iraqis who have applied to the Department of Homeland Security hoping for refugee status have been denied because their fingerprints turned up in a database of known or suspected terrorists.
That has critics questioning just how all the information is being used and whether people are unknowingly being categorized as terrorists without even knowing their personal information is being used.
Senior U.S. officials acknowledge it's not yet a perfect system and they are working hard to balance privacy concerns against national security and he success they're having in learning crucial information. The FBI says that following an audit by the Justice Department inspector general's office, it has changed some of the guidelines for using the information.
President Bush signed a directive last month giving the attorney general and other Cabinet officials 90 days to come up with a plan on how to expand the use of the data.
FOX News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.