July 18, 2007

Iraqi Fatalities on the Rise Amid Checkpoints, Eye Scans

American checkpoints and database ID programs seek to stem the tide of insurgent attacks ripping through Iraqi society.

But the bolstered security programs come at a human cost.

U.S. soldiers have killed or wounded 429 Iraqi civilians at checkpoints since June 2006, according to statistics obtained exclusively by McClatchy News Service.

The number has risen each month even as more U.S. troops pour into Iraq. They continue on average to rise each month as well, in spite of claims that the numbers are actually in decline.

Of the 3,200 checkpoint incidents in which soldiers fired warning shots at Iraqi civilians, 36 such shootings a month resulted in the wounding or death of an Iraqi.

It is still unclear how, or whether, the U.S. military tracks Iraqi civilians killed in raids or in the streets; McClatchy got the statistics, which were part of a report given to Army Gen. David Petraeus, from “a person familiar with the briefing.”

Checkpoints have become much more common as the U.S. expands a program to track thousands of Iraqi men in a database using their fingerprints and eye scans.

Soldiers have gone door to door collecting data to ascertain who lives where, and are giving Iraqis IDs to permit them entry to local neighborhoods and markets.

The program, which “has raised privacy concerns at the Pentagon,” according to USA Today, is meant to keep suspects out of vulnerable Iraqi neighborhoods. Those who refuse to be ID’ed are denied access, although few raise objections.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is also taking secret fingerprints from “terrorist safe houses, training camps, bomb factories” and other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They share the database with British intelligence and other allies in an effort to keep dangerous foreigners from entering their countries.

The U.S. database, which currently holds more than 60 million fingerprints, has another purpose — it also tracks fugitives and undocumented workers immigration officials seek to deport.

Sources:

“U.S. troops have shot 429 Iraqi civilians in past year”
McClatchy News Service, July 12, 2007

“U.S. is building database on Iraqis”
USA Today, July 12, 2007

“Fingerprints to help single out terrorists”
ABC News, July 5, 2007

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