Japan, U.S. agree to share criminal fingerprint data

Kyodo

Japan and the United States agreed Friday to conclude a pact that will let them instantly access each other’s fingerprint databases to identify people suspected of terrorism and other serious crimes, Japanese officials said.

Among the 36 nations and Taiwan that maintain visa-waiver arrangements with the United States, Japan was the only one that had refused to conclude the Agreement on Preventing and Combating Serious Crime with the United States.

Under the arrangement, sought by the U.S. side, the two will be able to check fingerprint data when alleged terrorists try to enter either country or when people under arrest for serious crimes, such as murder, cannot be identified.

Japan plans to submit the pact to the Diet for approval next year, but the scheme isn’t expected to be operational for a few years.

The National Police Agency maintains a database that contains the fingerprints of some 10.2 million people. The pact excludes people who were not indicted or were found not guilty in court, as well as juvenile offenders who were placed in protective custody.

Japan will be receive relevant data from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Either country will be able to ask the other for suspects’ fingerprints and electronically send them any such data. If there is a match, the requesting country will be instantly notified and provided the images through an automated system.

The requesting country may then seek other details, such as names, dates of birth and criminal records, by clarifying the purpose of its query to the other country.