Tech may track choppers

When the United States transfers 46 military helicopters to the Colombian

government this year to fight the war on drugs, Pentagon technology likely

will track the cargo every step of the way, possibly through territory dominated

by drug lords.

The helicopters, which are part of a $1.3 billion aid package signed

July 13, may be tracked by the Pentagon's suite of information technologies

known as Automatic Identification Technology.

The State Department has contacted officials at the U.S. Southern Command

and the AIT program office to notify them "to assist in tracking [the shipment]

on to its final destination, which so far is unknown," one source said.

A spokeswoman with State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law

Enforcement Affairs said the bureau has no knowledge of the tracking effort,

but one military source said the topic is highly sensitive. A final decision

probably won't be made until the cargo is ready to ship.

"Some of these drug lords are very powerful, and in some areas they

seem to control more of what goes on than the government does," the military

source said.

AIT is a multimillion-dollar suite of data-storage technologies, including

satellite tracking; linear and 2-D bar codes; optimal memory cards, which

work a lot like CD-ROMs, storing large amounts of data about the equipment

being shipped; and radio frequency tags.

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