Foreigners who entered the United States at Dulles airport, near Washington, were required to give officials 10 fingerprints instead of two, as new security measures were rolled out Monday.
"This is a more secure system that improves safety for everybody," Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff told a news conference at the airport.
Most foreigners aged between 14 and 79 who travel to the United States have been required since 2004 to provide the prints of two fingers and a digital photograph to US officials, either when they apply for a visa or arrive in the United States.
The data are checked against a watch list of criminals, known or suspected terrorists, and people who have violated the tough immigration laws in the United States, a statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.
By increasing the number of required fingerprints from two to 10, the DHS hopes to enhance security and improve the accuracy of checking a traveler's fingerprints against the watch list, which includes data supplied by the FBI, homeland security, defense department and other US government agencies.
"Biometrics tell the story that the unknown terrorist tries to conceal, and it causes them to question whether they've ever left a print behind," Chertoff said.
Collecting 10 prints from foreigners coming into the United States for the first time will improve US security agencies' "ability to compare a visitor's fingerprints against latent fingerprints collected... from known and unknown terrorists all over the world," Homeland Security said in a statement.
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