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New airport security system unveiled
Equipment to go into use in January
Wednesday, October 29, 2003 Posted: 10:44 AM EST (1544 GMT)

This electronic fingerprint scanner is shown as part of the steps that the Department of Homeland Security would use to verify the identity of international visitors.


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The public got its first look Tuesday at fingerprinting and photo equipment that will be installed at 115 airports and 14 seaports to check identities of millions of foreign visitors.

The equipment, which goes into use January 5, will allow inspectors to check identities of visitors against those on terrorist watch lists.

"This gives us the ability to know those who would violate a visa or overstay a visa," said Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security in Homeland Security.

A General Accounting Office report issued last month called the system "a very risky endeavor" with daunting goals, likely high costs and details that had yet to be worked out. The GAO said the system could lead to long lines at ports of entry.

But Hutchinson said it will add only a few minutes to the inspection of a traveler while significantly enhancing national security.

Travel industry groups have voiced concern in the past that the system could hurt the industry. Members of the Travel Industry Association of America were meeting with Hutchinson about the new system Tuesday.

"It has to be effective and in fact improve security and it has to do it without adding a really onerous burden to travelers to the United States," said Dexter Koehl, an association spokesman.

The system consists of a small box that digitally scans fingerprints and a spherical computer camera that snaps pictures. It will be used for the estimated 24 million foreigners traveling on tourist, business and student visas who enter through an airport or seaport.

Fifteen of the 19 September 11, 2001, hijackers entered the United States legally on travel visas. Three were admitted with business visas. The 19th entered on a student visa. At least three of the hijackers had expired visas.

The new system will gradually phase out a paper-based system that Congress mandated be modernized following the attacks.

The "exit" portion of the system to ensure visitors leave when required still is being developed, but officials showed off an electronic kiosk, much like those used to dispense e-tickets at airports. The kiosk would allow foreigners to scan documents and provide fingerprints as they leave.
The "exit" portion of the system to ensure visitors leave when required still is being developed

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I picture explosives in the neck ala Snake Pliskan in Escape from New York...