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Eye-O-Sauron™ spy towers still buggy

DHS huddled masses tracker further delayed

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The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s plan to build hundreds of all-seeing networked surveillance towers along American borders has run into further problems. The project in question is the technology portion of the Secure Borders Initiative (SBI).

Under SBI, contractor Boeing would erect perhaps 1800 towers, each 98 feet tall, equipped with ground-sweeping moving target radar that would sniff out huddled masses yearning to breathe free, terrorist infiltrators, possible Canadian raiding columns etc. Once a radar blip was flagged up, the all-seeing day/night video eye would swivel round to get a more exact idea what was moving. (Oddly perhaps, the kit is known as SBInet rather than Eye-O-Sauron™ or similar. Some kind of legal problem, no doubt.)

Once the invader/terrorist/migrant had been analysed by a control room watchkeeper, an icon moving in real time would appear on the DHS networked map, or Common Operating Picture (COP). Border-patrolmen on the ground could then access the COP map, and so plan their operations more efficiently.

That's the plan, anyway. For now, Boeing has only a $67m demonstration contract to set up a nine-tower, 28-mile barrier zone in the Arizona desert. This was supposed to go live three months ago, but in fact has yet to reach a suitable state of readiness for government testing to begin.

Today, AP reports that Homeland Security overlord Michael Chertoff has said he will cut off SBI net payments to Boeing until the pilot project succeeds. It is thought that most of the money has already been paid, but Boeing will be expecting to receive around $5m more once it gets the initial nine towers up and running.

"We are now looking to begin acceptance testing in about a month," Chertoff said. "We will then kick the tires again... like buying a car. We don't want to get stuck with a lemon."

A Boeing mouthpiece said that the firm was "working with our customer to solve some remaining technical issues".

Apparently it's the networking and integration which isn't working, rather than the sensor hardware itself. Boeing have reportedly sent in troubleshooters to get things kick-started, and removed some of their original personnel.

According to the DHS, "the integration of all the systems into a common operating picture continues to be the challenge."

Chertoff anticipates that once Boeing have got ready the acceptance testing will be finished by the end of the year.®

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