The next time you’re at a swanky function at the US embassy, you might want to keep track of your wine glass. At least, if the latest tranche of leaked documents from the US government is any indication: diplomats and other officials have apparently received instruction to collect biometric data—including DNA samples—from major players in certain countries.
The instructions were contained in the thousands of diplomatic cables uncovered through WikiLeaks, a non-profit website devoted to
embarrassing the US government publishing classified information on the web.
The Guardian first reported the DNA instructions, which were not issued world-wide. The instruction appeared in a diplomatic cable to US embassies in the sub-Saharan African countries of Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As part of intelligence gathering operations, embassy officials were asked to gather “email addresses, telephone and fax numbers, fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans” of prominent political, social and business figures inside the countries. Separate cables call for gathering of biometric information about key Palestinian officials and rebel leaders in Sudan.
Not all the data gathering is to come frome troubled regions, however. Another directive called for gathering “biometric information” as well as biographic information about the Directors General of the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the head of UNAIDS and the head of the Pan American Health Organisation, as well as numerous UN diplomats.
Of course “biometric information” could mean a lot of things, including a picture, but it nevertheless shows the US’s clear interest in gathering more data on the people they talk to. Certainly the Pentagon has been hard at work taking iris scans of Afghani and Iraqi nationals for security purposes. Wired’s blog Danger Room has a nice summary of the state of affairs which is worth reading.
One questions the cables don’t answer: Where is all this biometric information actually going?
Credit: US State Department