TB Case Raises Border Security Questions

TB carrier Andrew Speaker entered the country despite being on a security list.

ByABC News via via logo
January 8, 2009, 12:08 AM

June 2, 2007 — -- At the border crossing last week between Canada and Plattsburgh, N.Y., a U.S. customs and border agent scanned Andrew Speaker's passport.

A Department of Homeland Security warning flashed on the agent's computer screen saying, "Isolate. Detain. Call Public Health Services." This is because Speaker had tuberculosis.

But Speaker and his wife say that did not happen. They were able to enter the country.

"We showed our passports at every point that we were asked," Sarah Speaker said. "They saw our passports. We didn't lie. We booked our tickets under our names."

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security, blames the agent entirely for the mistake. And it says the employee has been re-assigned to administrative duties saying, "The system worked effectively, but there was a breakdown with the employee."

However, some law makers worry this may not be an isolated incident and see this as evidence of a system unprepared for any major health crisis.

On Wednesday Congress will begin holding hearings looking into what appears to be a gaping hole in homeland security.

"What troubles me the most is what this says about the state of our security five years after the attack on our country," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also expressed concern.

"You have the best computer system in the world, but if the people on the job aren't properly trained and don't execute their job properly, that great computer system will go for naught."

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