Britain considering role in US biometric security database

LONDON - The United States is trying to recruit Britain and other countries to participate in a security database to share biometric data on terrorists and criminals, a British newspaper reported Tuesday.

The Guardian cited the national U.S. law enforcement body the FBI as saying that the proposed database, called the "Server in the Sky," was still in the concept and design stage. Once active, it would enable countries to quickly search and swap biometric data - such as fingerprints, genetic information and iris scans - on some of the world's most wanted criminals.

The FBI described the planned database as "a core holding of the world's worst of the worst individuals," according to the newspaper.

The newspaper said other countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had been approached to participate in the project.

Britain's National Police Improvement Agency, which has discussed the project with the FBI, said it was too early to say whether Britain would participate in the database.

"There was a discussion last year," a spokesman for the agency said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with agency policy. "That was it. There's no specific discussions on timescales or how it would be delivered. We've got no plans to do anything at this time."

Britain's Home Office and London's Metropolitan Police said only that they were aware of the project, refusing to go into any detail.

The U.S. Embassy in London referred questions to the FBI's office in Washington, which did not immediately return a call requesting comment on the report.

Britain has already agreed to allow access to much of its biometric information to its European allies. Last year EU nations completed a plan to share national police databases containing fingerprints, genetic information and license plate numbers.

The data-sharing deal, known as the Pruem Treaty, is intended to automate the information-sharing and do away with time-costly data request applications. The system is already online in Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Finland, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg.

Last year the German interior minister suggested that the measures could also be extended to the United States as part a worldwide effort to track terror suspects and wanted criminals.


Associated Press Writer Constant Brand in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.