WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is demanding answers after a nationwide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) computer outage created long lines and frayed nerves at airports nationwide during one of the busiest travel days of the year. Yesterday’s outage, the root cause of which has yet to be determined, impacted airline passengers at airports in South Florida, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, among others.
In a letter sent today to the head of CBP, Nelson, who serves as the top Democrat on a Senate panel that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, asked for a full accounting of the incident, including whether any hacking was to blame.
“We’ve got to figure out why this happened and how we’re going to prevent outages in the future.” Nelson wrote. “And, given the recent reports of suspected Russian hacking, we also have to be absolutely sure no foreign-sponsored bad actors were involved.”
This was not the first time CBP computers experienced problems that caused long lines and passenger headaches around the country. A similar incident occurred in October 2015.
Below is the text of Nelson’s letter.
January 3, 2017
The Honorable R. Gil Kerlikowske
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20229
Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske:
I write to request an update from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the recent computer outage that took place at several airports across the country, including South Florida. This outage resulted in an untold number of travelers waiting for several hours to process through Customs checkpoints, with many missing their connecting flights during one of the year’s busiest travel days.
Given that this is not the first time such a malfunction has happened, I would like a full accounting of the incident. We’ve got to figure out why this happened and how we’re going to prevent outages in the future. And, given the recent reports of suspected Russian hacking, we also have to be absolutely sure no foreign-sponsored bad actors were involved. This is especially critical given CBP’s national security mission to safeguard our borders.
Your attention to this matter is appreciated, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.