DECEMBER 15, 2006
A sophisticated multi billion-dollar program created to protect the nation after the 2001 terrorist attacks is severely flawed and cannot even detect whether a foreigner remains in the country illegally with an expired visa as did several of the September 11 hijackers.
Established by the Department of Homeland Security to secure the nation’s borders, the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. VISIT) program was supposed to collect, maintain and share data on selected foreign nationals entering and exiting the United States at air, sea and land ports of entry.
The system, in place at 170 ports of entry, uses biometric identifiers such as facial and fingerprint recognition to track foreigners entering and leaving the United States. So far, it has been successful in documenting those who enter the country but cannot determine if in fact they leave when they are supposed to.
A 100-page Congressional investigative report found that the flawed exit technology cannot ensure that visitors who enter the country are those who leave, presenting a huge national security threat since terrorists can easily obtain a U.S. visa and remain in the country to plot their attack.
That is game plan utilized by several of the September 11 hijackers. They came to the United States legally with student visas and remained, undetected by federal and local authorities, long after their visa had expired. That costly security lapse motivated lawmakers to allocate several billion dollars to create the U.S. VISIT program, which was also supposed to help the illegal immigration crisis in general since approximately 1/3 of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants are believed to have overstayed their visas.
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