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LAX snafu hints at larger problem

August 15, 2007

Re "Customs blamed for clog at LAX," Aug. 14

In 40 years of studying computer reliability, I have not seen more apparent incompetence than the 10-hour search for "a faulty hardware switch" at LAX on Aug. 11. Fault-tolerant commercial computers, like those controlling ATM machines, routinely detect faulty hardware and recover in seconds, invisibly to the customers.

How can we trust U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protect us when it takes 10 hours to find one faulty switch, and why did they buy such inferior hardware?

Algirdas Avizienis

UCLA Professor Emeritus

of Computer Engineering

Santa Monica


The fact that a computer glitch can keep planes from landing and taking off, can keep U.S. citizens detained for hours without probable cause for suspicion of criminal activity and impede critical commerce for the whole region speaks to me of utter and total incompetence.

The fact that no Customs administrator had the authority to release people or planes tells me that the whole system is over-managed to the hilt.

Concentrating power in Washington is not working. It's time to do some things differently. I want to know that federal, state and local government entities are equipped to deal with real emergencies as well as the occasional bolt of lightning that fries a local computer. But with all this political attention focused on George Bush's revenge in Iraq, I don't expect any improvements anytime soon.

Patrick Sullivan


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