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WASHINGTON – ABC News with Peter Jennings is set to run a segment in its newscast tonight about chronic troubles plaguing the computer system used by U.S. immigration officers to check terrorist and criminal watchlists, based on a story WorldNetDaily broke Tuesday.
ABC News correspondent Jill Rackmill earlier today interviewed WND’s Washington bureau chief about the exclusive WND story.
As WND first reported, the border-inspections computer system has been on the blink for much of the past week – including an outage that lasted 24 hours last week – causing long lines at international airports. And technicians at the Homeland Security Department cannot seem to diagnose the problem, let alone fix it.
Homeland Security spokesman Jim Mitchie acknowledged that headquarters has received complaints from U.S. airport inspectors about “sluggishness” with some databases.
But he would not speculate whether the problem is tied to an Internet-related virus that has infected computer systems at other federal agencies. The worm targets computers using Microsoft operating software.
Though U.S. immigration officers use the Internet to conduct inspections-related searches on incoming passengers, they are supposed to access the Net through separate computer systems.
“There has been a directive and effort for some time to not have Internet access on any inspections-primary machines,” an officer said. The machines use Microsoft software.
Lines at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport continued to snake the length of the international terminal today, as inspectors have had to wait up to five minutes to get a response from databases after swiping passports.
“It’s still nasty,” said an officer, who suspects the problem is related to hardware, not the virus. “There’s a bottleneck somewhere in the system. It’s like trying to put 10 inches of sewage through a three-inch pipe.”
Compounding delays, O’Hare suffered a power outage today.
Slow computers prompted immigration officials at Washington Dulles International Airport here to apologize to throngs of passengers standing in lines normally seen at amusement parks.
“Disney World would have been proud of” the lines, said passenger Jeff Carneal yesterday.
Both the TECS and APIS databases have been on the blink. TECS contains law-enforcement information, while APIS contains passenger information provided by the airlines in advance of flights.
On Aug. 6, some 40 ports of entry experienced a 24-hour system outage, says a Dallas- Fort Worth International Airport official.