TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Customs Computer Virus Strands Passengers

Customs Computer Virus Strands Passengers

Lisa Orkwin Emmanuel (
Fri, 19 Aug 2005 13:23:34 -0500

By LISA ORKIN EMMANUEL, Associated Press Writer

Travelers arriving in the United States from abroad were stuck in
long lines at airports nationwide when a virus shut down an U.S. Customs
and Border Protection computer system for several hours, officials said.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the virus impacted
computer systems at a number of airports Thursday night, including
those in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas
and Laredo, Texas.

Knocke said customs agents immediately switched to manual
inspections. He declined to provide details on where the computer
virus originated but said Friday the investigation remained open.

The worst delays appeared to be at Miami International Airport, where
about 4,000 to 5,000 people waited to clear immigration, airport
spokesman Greg Chin said. The passengers were not permitted to leave
the area before then, but they all went through by midnight, he said.
Everything was back to normal Friday.

Brian Hunt and his wife, who were visiting from Spain, said it took
them nearly five hours to be processed.

"The agent was very charming, very nice and greeted us with a smile,"
he told The Miami Herald. "It was just an unfortunate thing, but these
things happen. Who do we blame?"

The computer problem originated in database systems located in
Virginia and lasted from around 6 p.m. until about 11:30 p.m., said
Zachary Mann, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in
southern Florida.

At New York's airports, customs officials processed passengers by
hand. Officials used backup computer systems to keep passengers moving
at Los Angeles International Airport, where computers were down only
briefly and delays from six flights lasted up to 2 1/2 hours.

"It was during a light time of travel for international passengers at
LAX," said Mike Fleming, customs spokesman in Los Angeles. "All
systems have been restored to full capacity."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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