Senator Pushes for Answers Following Reports of Taliban Using US Data to Kill Afghans

Senator Pushes for Answers Following Reports of Taliban Using US Data to Kill Afghans

Sen. (R-Tenn.) is demanding answers from the highest levels of the government today over the continued fallout from the botched withdrawal from .

Blackburn’s quest for transparency follows reports that the has seized abandoned U.S. biometric devices and has used them to find and execute Afghan citizens who helped the U.S. during the war.

Last August, the Taliban seized the devices, formally known as Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment (HIIDE). Each unit contains iris scans and fingerprints belonging to Afghan informants.

It’s unclear how much of the U.S. military’s biometric data in Afghanistan was lost.

However, what is clear is that the American people deserve answers. That desire for accountability prompted Sen. Blackburn to fire off a letter to Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense .

Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tom Tillis (R-N.C.) added their signatures to Blackburn’s letter.

Per Senator Blackburn’s office:

The ’s Botched Withdrawal From Afghanistan Was a Gift to the Taliban

“According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, the U.S. military used sensitive data, including biometric data, to register Afghan soldiers and ensure payment for services rendered in support of U.S. These systems, which were abandoned when the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan, contained iris scans, fingerprints, photographs, occupational data, home addresses and names of relatives. As the world focuses its attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban is using this personal information to increase targeted killings, torture, and forced disappearances of Afghans who helped the United States.”

The United States Abandoned Our Partners in Afghanistan

“Since the Taliban took control, the Afghan people have suffered significant losses in security, stability, and freedom. In particular, Afghan women and girls are again losing their rights to education, healthcare, job opportunities, and independence due to restrictive policies from the Taliban. The Taliban will continue to target the vulnerable with equipment and information that the Biden Administration left behind. We owe these Afghans who aided the U.S. military a debt of gratitude. We should show them that we will not forget their service and will not ignore their sacrifices for a better and freer Afghanistan.”

View the Full Letter Here or Below

Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin,

We write regarding news reports that the Taliban is targeting our Afghan partners with information from biometric databases that the United States left behind in the administration’s hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan.

According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, the U.S. military used sensitive data, including biometric data, to register Afghan soldiers and ensure payment for services rendered in support of U.S. These systems, which were abandoned when the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan, contained iris scans, fingerprints, photographs, occupational data, home addresses and names of relatives. As the world focuses its attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban is using this personal information to increase targeted killings, torture, and forced disappearances of Afghans who helped the United States.

Since the Taliban took control, the Afghan people have suffered significant losses in security, stability, and freedom. In particular, Afghan women and girls are again losing their rights to education, healthcare, job opportunities, and independence due to restrictive policies from the Taliban. The Taliban will continue to target the vulnerable with equipment and information that the Biden Administration left behind. We owe these Afghans who aided the U.S. military a debt of gratitude. We should show them that we will not forget their service and will not ignore their sacrifices for a better and freer Afghanistan.

In an effort to establish transparency and clear expectations, please provide answers to the following questions:

1) What are the policies and procedures governing when and how the U.S. collects sensitive data, including biometric data, of individuals working with the American military around the globe, including those who supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan? What are the safeguards associated with those policies and procedures? For example, where is such data stored and how is it disposed of in the event of mission changes or unintended transfers of control of the data?

2) Are these reports credible? If so, how does the administration plan to help our Afghan partners that are being targeted with this information?

3) What future steps will the administration take to improve its data collection and retention policies to be sure this does not happen again in places where we are militarily involved?

We look forward to a detailed response that addresses each of the above questions. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of American Liberty News.

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