Four of the Sept. 11 hijackers entered the U.S. through Orlando International Airport, where inspectors have undergone a massive reorganization and updated procedures for detecting terrorists. Yet little has changed, the Orlando Sentinel concludes. Inspectors for the new Bureau of Customs and Border Protection say they remain understaffed, especially during peak summer-travel periods; they lack firm standards for denying admission to travelers; and they are undertrained — while still being expected to size up a foreign traveler’s statement, body language, and paperwork in 60 seconds or less.
The number of would-be visitors who have been denied entry by inspectors in Central Florida — one measure of vigilance — has dropped from a high of 540 in 2001 to 259 last year and 200 during the first 10 months of the past fiscal year. “The system is entirely overwhelmed,” said Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. “Things have improved, but there’s an enormous mismatch between workload and resources. All the pressure is to admit people.” “This is a monotonous, customer-oriented law-enforcement job,” said Janice Kephart, a 9-11 commission investigator who interviewed inspectors who dealt with the hijackers. “There is a natural difficulty in enforcing the law by looking at [traveler] behavior, reviewing travel documents, asking questions and listening for answers, checking databases — and doing all of this while smiling — in 45 seconds.” “Homeland security looks so good on paper and on TV,” one inspector said. “But nothing has changed.”