US Republicans oppose FBI contract with French

5th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Concerns about an FBI contract with a French firm have been raised by US Republicans who believe this could cause a counterintelligence threat.

WASHINGTON – Republican lawmakers raised concerns Monday about an FBI contract that could be awarded to a French company for a digital fingerprint identification system.

In letters to Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert Mueller, the lawmakers expressed uneasiness about granting a national security-related contract to Safran, which is partly owned by the French government.

"Allowing a foreign government to provide services regarding sensitive information to our law enforcement and intelligence communities could potentially pose a grave counterintelligence threat to the US government," wrote Minnesota Representative John Kline, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

"I urge the FBI to assess whether any domestic companies are capable of this work and weigh carefully the risks versus the benefits of granting a foreign government access to this sensitive data."

Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Richard Burr of North Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia -- also wrote Mueller about the contract, their offices said, while refusing to comment on the matter or provide a copy of the letters.

But FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer told AFP that the agency "assesses all risks and vulnerabilities associated with any foreign influence or security concerns for vendors under consideration for contracts, including subcontracts, with the FBI."

The FBI announced in February 2008 that it had contracted Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions to develop a new criminal and terrorist identification system called Next Generation Identification (NGI).

Fischer said Lockheed Martin "is currently conducting a detailed 'trade study' to determine what technology to use, and is currently evaluating multiple vendor solutions."

Following its study, Lockheed Martin will award a subcontract to one of the vendors. When the company informs the FBI of its recommended solution and subcontractor, the agency would conduct a risk assessment, Fischer said.

According to several sources familiar with the matter, the US company could subcontract part of the work dealing with digital fingerprints to MorphoTrak, a Safran affiliate that specializes in biometric systems.

The contract could reach over EUR 75 million (USD 100 million,) according to a congressional source.

A spokewoman for Virginia-based MorphoTrak, Eve Fillon, declined to comment on the issue.

Safran, an electronics and defense company that specializes in aerospace propulsion, aircraft equipment and defense security systems, acquired Motorola's biometric activities in April.

AFP / Expatica

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