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Way of speeding Aussies into US stumbles over human error

July 11, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Just as Australians were about to take part in an automated system that fast-tracks entry to the USA, helping travellers skip queues, the whole process has fallen under a cloud.  

The US Global Entry program makes entering the US speedier for pre-approved travellers. A test run of extending the system to Australians was due in the latter half of this year.

Global Entry, run by US Customs and Border Protection, allows pre-vetted travellers to enter the US through a kiosk system rather than queuing to speak to an agent.

Global Entry also includes a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) clearance, which speeds security processing on US domestic flights. It program has proved so popular among travellers that six million Americans have signed up, to the delight of the US travel industry.

Now, however, authorities have found a flaw. The system is “vulnerable to exploitation” by criminals seeking to enter the US – and it’s human error that’s to blame, not computers.

The process sees travellers who are enrolled in Global Entry head to a kiosk, scan their passport and immigration documents, then receive a printed receipt, rather like happens with Australia’s SmartGates system at airports. In the US case, passengers then hand their receipt to a customs officer for inspection.

Global Entry helps reduce immigration queues

Internal TSA investigators, however, have found that in nine airports inspected, customs officers more-or-less waved Global Entry members through, without fully checking the authenticity of their kiosk receipts.

That means a criminal with a dodgy receipt could enter the US.

Officers find the receipt verification process “cumbersome, ineffective and inadequate”, an official report states.

The US Travel Association (USTA) is very keen for the problem to be fixed.

“The integrity of the Global Entry program is of critical importance,” USTA’s vice president for public affairs and policy, Tori Barnes, declared, adding that inspections and audits “only serve to make the program more secure”.

Global Entry kiosks

“Global Entry’s record and DHS’s management of it are exemplary, and any allegation of security issues needs to be taken seriously and addressed quickly and aggressively – which we are assured is exactly what is happening in this case,” Barnes said.

“We are examining the inspector general’s report and engaging with the Department of Homeland Security to explore the issue further. We are informed by Customs and Border Protection that the agency is already working to implement the recommendations in the report.”

Written by Peter Needham

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