TECHNOLOGY ON THE LINE
Victor Manuel Grande avoided the border crossing in Douglas, Ariz., and instead went three miles down the road to try and enter the United States from Mexico. Border Patrol agents intercepted him and brought him back to the Douglas crossing.
Using its Automated Fingerprint Identification System, the Border Patrol identified him as the same Victor Manuel Grande who had been deported to El Salvador in 1999 and who was the subject of an outstanding felony warrant in Los Angeles. Grande had been arrested multiple times in the United States for sexual offenses.
The identification system — connected to an FBI database and used for two years at Arizona border crossings — is just one of many technology tools used to protect our nation’s borders. “It’s the most advanced biometric system in the world,” said Andy Adame, a spokesperson for the Tucson Border Patrol.
Making borders smarter
Counting airports, there are border crossings in every state, and they are essential to the U.S. “wars” on terrorism and narcotics. From international flights and ships at sea, from cars and trucks to pedestrians, those waiting to cross the United States border will encounter an array of technologies designed to intercept the Victor Grandes of the world — and any harmful materials they might be carrying.
“After [the] Sept. 11 [attacks], we realized that we had to begin pushing our zone of security outward,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said in testimony to the 9-11 Commission. “We wanted our borders to be our last line of defense against the terrorist threat, not our first line of defense. This is the ‘extended border,’ concept, part of what [Homeland Security] Secretary [Tom] Ridge has called a ‘Smart Border’ strategy.”
Smart borders incorporate new technologies — mixed with the tried-and-true methods of pre-Sept. 11 security measures. Added to the fences, cameras, checkpoints and passports of the 20th century are the latest motion sensors, heat sensors, radiation detectors, RFID tags and biometric readers of the 21st.
New technology initiatives have spawned from a variety of Homeland security-related programs targeted specifically at border crossings, both for people and shipments.
Passenger and shipment screening: From C-TPAT to CSI
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act enacted by Congress in November 2001 requires all airlines flying into the U.S. to provide the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with advance passenger information, the passenger manifest, and personal name and record data. Using the data, CBP is now better able to identify individuals posing a potential threat prior to their arrival at U.S. airports. The so-called Advanced Passenger Information System, or “APIS,” is a real-time system that runs advance passenger information against law enforcement and terrorist databases on a passenger-by-passenger basis. By the time an airplane lands, Customs is able to evaluate who on the aircraft might pose a threat to the United States and take appropriate action.
Once those passengers make it to the airport border crossing, their identification documents undergo close scrutiny. One company, Bedford, N.H.-based Imaging Automation, has deployed document authentication technology called iAuthenticate at border crossings worldwide. The system checks ID information against existing databases and watch lists and performs a battery of tests to authenticate the validity of photo IDs, driver’s licenses and travel documents by way of an image capture unit that uses pattern and facial recognition technologies to verify both the individual and the document.
“Border control systems at air, sea, and land gateways must interface with information from federal government and local authorities, such as immigration and police departments and intelligence agencies,” says former Chief Intelligence Officer of Israel Defense Forces General (Ret.) Doron Tamir, now vice president of strategic defense and security systems at Ness Technologies, a Hackensack, N.J.-based provider of information management solutions.
“These systems must contain advanced detection mechanisms in order to efficiently identify the passenger’s biometric identification (including face and hand imprints) and documents,” he continues.
A program similar to APIS is applied to shipments, requiring prior submission of complete manifest information to U.S. Customs 24 hours before loading ocean-going cargo containers bound for the United States. To that end, Customs has established the C-TPAT, or Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. Shippers become C-TPAT members by proving they have strengthened the security of their own supply chains; in exchange, they get expedited processing at border crossings.
Another program, the Container Screening Initiative (CSI), includes provisions calling for technology to pre-screen high-risk containers with radiation detectors and large-scale radiographic imaging machines.
Bonner has recently unveiled high-tech radiation portal monitors that can scan an entire sea container for traces of radiological materials in about three minutes. The shipping scanners are coupled with hand-held Radiation Isotope Identifier Devices (RIIDs) and Personal Radiation Detection (PRD) units for use at various seaports and airports.
Expediting clearance: FAST and US-VISIT
Another big post-Sept. 11 initiative is the Free and Secure Trade, or FAST program, originally developed along the northern U.S. border with Canada. Under the FAST program, importers, commercial carriers (i.e., trucking companies), and truck drivers are enrolled and, if they meet stringent security criteria, are entitled to expedited clearance at the border. Both the importer and the trucking company seeking to bring goods from Canada into the U.S. through the FAST lane must be C-TPAT participants, and drivers must submit fingerprints, undergo criminal background checks and pass an interview. FAST is now operational in 28 lanes at six major commercial crossings along the northern border. A similar program for vehicles and pedestrians called SENTRI may soon be implemented on the U.S.-Mexican border.
CBP is using wireless radio frequency identification (RFID) technology as the standard for the FAST program. TransCore Ltd., Hummelstown, Pa., has agreed to deliver to CBP more than 170,000 windshield sticker tags, driver identification cards and booth reader equipment at 22 U.S. border crossings for use with the FAST program. As a truck approaches a FAST lane at a border crossing, a wireless RFID reader recognizes the unique identification number encoded on the truck and driver’s identification tags, automatically submitting carrier and driver information to Customs.
The United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indication Technology, or US-VISIT program, uses two digital, biometric inkless finger-scans and a photograph to verify the identity of passengers seeking admission to the U.S.
Foreign visitors with visas traveling to the U.S. have both index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken at the port of entry to verify their identity, thus providing more complete data about the travelers while expediting processing at border crossings.
US-VISIT is part of a more comprehensive system that begins overseas, where the Department of State collects biometrics at the time of visa application. These procedures make it more difficult for a person to use fraudulent documents to enter the United States illegally. The biometrics also reveal the true identities of individuals who are using an alias or have used one in the past.
On Jan. 5, US-VISIT became operational at 115 international airports and 14 passenger ship seaport locations. In its first 21 days, the system processed more than 600,000 passengers and identified 39 known criminals attempting to enter the country.
Ideas into practice: The basics
Thinking about security technology brings to mind futuristic, high-tech devices; however, borders also rely on the basics for an overall high-security strategy.
As a longtime staple of perimeter security, fences are both a visual and physical deterrent to intruders. Those fences can be further enhanced with disturbance sensors that use microphones to analyze and detect the sounds associated with cutting, lifting or climbing the fence.
The fences are coupled with traditional CCTV appliances, lighting and signage.
“[The trend] in border security is the accelerated use of technology,” says Lurita Doan, president of New Technology Management Inc., Reston, Va., which has been installing border security systems for the government since 2001. “Remote security surveillance, constant video recording of all activities, duress/pager systems, security lighting, improved signage, lockable gates and land-based and satellite communications systems are some examples.”
CCTV is also being equipped with real-time motion detection and remote monitoring capabilities. But as with many facilities, securing the information flowing to the protection officers is key. “One trend is to deliver accurate, complete information to the right person at the right time securely,” says Anthony D’Agata, vice president and general manager of the Government Systems Division of Sprint. “Our role is to design and implement the network to carry this data. We see this network as a native private IP-based service.”
Technology on the cutting edge
Customs is taking a close look at new technologies to detect and deter border intrusion. “One advanced but well-proven technology getting serious attention is smart fiber-optic sensors,” says Michael Montgomery of Fiber SenSys Inc. (a CompuDyne company).
Fiber-optic sensor systems have provided perimeter security for many permanent and temporary military facilities. For protecting borders, fiber-optics fits the bill because of its stability, long range, suitability for buried applications and its immunity to lightning and other electrical interference, Montgomery says.
Defending against biological threats is another key area where new technology must stand on the line. The Department of Homeland Security in April launched a research and development effort for two biological detection systems: Bioagent Autonomous Networked Detectors (BANDs) and Rapid Automated Biological Identification Systems (RABISs). BANDS will be used for monitoring outdoor areas for bacteria, viruses and toxins, while RABIS is designed mainly for indoor monitoring.
For personal identification, biometrics applications are dominated by fingerprint scanning and recognition. “By the end of 2002, the INS will have issued more than 20 million Alien Resident Cards (ARC) and Border Crosser Cards (BCC) equipped with biometric technologies,” says Vincent D. Lupe of Diebold Inc., a North Canton, Ohio-based security technology provider. “Both cards contain an image of the bearer’s fingerprint that is encrypted in the optical zone of the card,” adds Lupe, manager of Diebold’s Integration, Electronic Security and Currency Systems Group.
“I believe we’re going to see a greater acceptance by the public of non-invasive biometrics as part of the international travel process,” says Ed Schaffner of Unisys, a Pennsylvania-based provider of IT services and solutions. “We’re going to see an increase in the accuracy of the biometrics as new technologies are developed and existing ones are enhanced.”
Statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that CBP officers arrested and detained more than one million people seeking to enter the United States illegally in 2003. The figure includes 17,618 criminal aliens and 483 people who were detained for national security reasons.
A glimpse at other results:
- U.S. citizens examined – 159,162,142
- Aliens inspected – 264,120,740
- Total inadmissible aliens – 680,203
- Aliens refused entry or withdrew – 397,788
- Aliens expeditiously removed – 51,274
- Aliens referred to the Immigration Judge for federal removal proceedings – 7,190
- Fraudulent documents intercepted – 72,398
- False claims to U.S. citizenship – 13,636
- Lookout intercepts – 315,196
- Stowaway apprehensions – 584
- Criminal aliens intercepted – 17,618
- Terrorists/Security violators – 483
- Border Patrol apprehensions – 931,557
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection FY ‘03 Report