Bush aims technology at borders

President Bush intends to rely on technology to help track the comings and goings of visitors from other countries.

The president's State of the Union address Jan. 29 emphasized the U.S. commitment to fight terrorism, and Bush said that technology would be an important component of the effort to keep America safe.

"My budget nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security, focused on four key areas: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence," Bush said in his speech. "We will improve intelligence collection and sharing, expand patrols at our borders, strengthen the security of air travel, and use technology to track the arrivals and departures of visitors to the United States."

Several agencies — including the State Department, the U.S. Customs Service, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service — have been experimenting with high-tech tools to keep track of people entering the United States.

But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, it became apparent that border control must be tightened. Several of the 19 terrorists who hijacked four passenger jets were in the United States illegally, and one of them had been issued a visa even though he was named on a terrorist watch list.

The State Department already is using a special high-tech visa application process for foreign athletes at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And embassies in Mexico and India will launch a pilot project this year to pool data from 40 federal agencies to electronically check the background of every visa applicant before a document is issued.

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