More phony baloney goverment “false sense of security” activity, just more bureaucracy. Visitor screening program expands. (USA TODAY):

Federal agents in three cities along the Mexican and Canadian borders will begin photographing and fingerprinting some foreign visitors Monday as part of a program aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the USA. But critics say the system is too costly, ineffective and vastly scaled back from what Congress ordered after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The program, which has cost about $1 billion to implement so far and could eventually cost up to $10 billion to put in place, is called US-VISIT, for United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology. It has been used at 115 airports and 14 seaports since the start of the year. In that time, 319 people have been detained or turned away, though none was a suspected terrorist.

Under the program, any foreigner who needs a visa to enter the USA must provide fingerprints from two fingers and be photographed at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. When the visitor arrives at the border, his fingerprints and photos will be taken again to make sure they match. That information, along with the visitor’s name and other personal information, will be run against government watch lists of known and suspected terrorists and sexual predators, as well as the FBI (news – web sites)’s criminal databases. If there’s a match, the visitor will be denied entry.

Among the problems cited by skeptics, including members of Congress, the Government Accountability Office and representatives of the business and travel communities:

* Agents will take only two fingerprints; the FBI database uses prints from all 10 fingers. Critics say the two-print database won’t work well with the FBI’s database and will lead to a high error rate, especially against terrorists who alter their prints to try to slip through the system. US-VISIT Director Jim Williams says that collecting 10 fingerprints from each person would add another $1 billion to the cost and require larger equipment that can’t fit in existing Customs and inspection areas. “We don’t know that the accuracy goes up” enough to make it worth the cost, he says.

…* Only about 4% of the visitors crossing the USA’s land borders each day will be checked when the initial phase is running Jan. 1 at the 50 busiest border crossings in 10 states. Foreigners from 27 nations deemed at low risk for harboring terrorists, including Mexico, Canada and many European nations, do not have to apply for visas and will not be fingerprinted or photographed.

…Laredo businessman Dennis Nixon, president and CEO of International Bancshares Corp., calls US-VISIT a “feel-good policy” to make the public think the government is securing the border. He says the government should track down terrorists on its watch lists. “What is the purpose of all this checking and rechecking of legitimate visitors?” Nixon says.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding