The Taliban's latest offensives have been nothing short of impressive, acquiring 600,000 weapons, 75,000 vehicles, and 200 aircraft, transforming the terrorist group into a rogue military power overnight. One military device Taliban forces have sized is the U.S. military's biometrics database that has sounded alarm bells with U.S. officials.
Called the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE), it was seized last week during the Taliban's offensive, according to The Intercept, who spoke with current and former military officials. The sensitive data, now in Taliban hands, contains a biological database on the Afghan population. Some sensitive data include thousands of Afghan civilians who worked alongside U.S. Army Special Forces as interpreters.
We noted Sunday that stranded Afghans, some of whom worked for the U.S. military, are quickly deleting their social media profiles and covering up their internet presence to protect their privacy from the Taliban.
Taliban forces have been on a crusade to hunt and kill Afghans who worked with the U.S. military. Ever since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan two decades ago, thousands of Afghan interpreters have been hired. Since 2014, at least 300 of them and or family members have been killed. With the Taliban governing the country - many are fleeing for their lives, pleading with the U.S. military to rescue them.
The acquisition of HIIDE could make the Taliban's hunt for Afghan interpreters even easier since their biometric data such as iris scans and fingerprints are in the system.
An Army Special Operations veteran, told The Intercept that Taliban computer gurus need additional computer processing to analyze HIIDE data but said Pakistan would gladly assist with this effort. "The Taliban doesn't have the gear to use the data but the ISI do," the former Special Operations official said, referring to Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.
Welton Chang, chief technology officer for Human Rights First, a former Army intelligence officer, said, "I don't think anyone ever thought about data privacy or what to do in the event the [HIIDE] system fell into the wrong hands."
"Moving forward, the U.S. military and diplomatic apparatus should think carefully about whether to deploy these systems again in situations as tenuous as Afghanistan," Chang said.
The security risks posed by the abandoned biometrics database are just one of the numerous consequences of a sloppy U.S. withdrawal by the Biden administration. A proper withdraw would've been to wipe the databases clean and destroy all devices.