Procedures for fingerprinting as many as 20,000 scientists are expected to be released this week, as the FBI prepares to assess security risks at laboratories working with select agents — microbes and compounds considered to have weapons potential. It is the latest step in a registration process that lab managers and individual researchers have so far found confusing and unexpectedly intrusive.

"The fingerprint is a positive identifier of the individual we are dealing with," said David Hardy, section chief for the FBI's Records Information Dissemination section. Exactly how the fingerprints will be taken has been a frequent question in calls Hardy has been fielding from laboratories under the gun to meet fast-approaching federal deadlines for registering to work with select agents.

Some key FBI forms were not released until March 12, the day laboratories were supposed to register with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the...

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