February 1st, 2006

tweety, wtf


Via BoingBoing, via Bruce Schneier: an article on how the US-VISIT program has been rolled out across all fixed-entry ports in the United States. Some estimate the operation has cost more than $15billion so far, and in the past year or so the system has managed to catch 1,000 people with "criminal" (doesn't say how many of those were OMGTERRORISTS) "or immigration violations". Incredibly simplistic math puts that at a cost of $15m per caught offender, or $340 per person processed. I have no doubt those figures will go down as time goes by, because initial investment is always going to be more than recurring maintenance costs (unless, of course, the system fails), but those are some pretty ridiculous numbers considering the utter bullshit the 44+ million innocent visitors processed through the US-VISIT system so far had to endure.

I served a customer on Sunday morning who had managed to enter her card PIN incorrectly when paying for her shopping. She blamed it on jet lag, as she'd just flown home from Orlando International Airport. I couldn't resist: I had to ask her whether the insanity was still going on, and she replied that not only was she fingerprinted but they also took a fucking retinal scan. The jet lag from the flight home, plus the humiliation of being treated like a potential terrorist on the way in, was compounded by the fact that her airline had managed to lose one of her bags at London Gatwick Airport on the way in.

Regular readers will know that since this program was announced, I have refused and will continue to refuse to spend or even accept a single penny to travel back to the United States, as long as I have to be subjected to the scans a suspect in a crime is forced to undergo - hell, I doubt that even the retinas of many criminal suspects are scanned - in the full knowledge that my biometric data will be stored on a myriad of Government servers, some of which I am unaware even exist, for up to a hundred years (although I notice that the Department of Homeland Security's web site has conveniently removed this fact since I last brought it up). I am yet to be convinced that the system has worked at all.