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Official: UK e-border program is full of problems

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October 9, 2013 01:21 PM EST | AP

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LONDON — LONDON (AP) — The U.K.'s electronic border program is full of holes, an official report said Wednesday, warning that the expensive effort to digitize Britain's border defenses is failing to stop terror sympathizers and smugglers from getting in.

Britain, like the United States and some other nations, is increasingly trying to project its borders outward, drawing on government databases and international watch lists to flag suspicious travelers before they reach the country. Britain's e-border program, proposed in 2003, aims to pre-screen air passengers, deny entry to dangerous criminals and generally speed processing at Britain's busy border crossings.

Yet Independent border inspector John Vine, author of the report, told BBC television that simply "was not happening."

Despite spending about 427 million pounds ($682 million) since 2007, there has been no appreciable difference in processing speeds and the promised savings have yet to materialize, the report said.

Most worrying was his contention that terror alerts weren't being properly followed up. He said in one case nearly 650,000 alerts relating to drug smuggling and contraband tobacco were deleted, partly because the quality of the data was so poor.

Vine did say the e-border system had proven a helpful tool for the British police, whose use of border data has led to hundreds of arrests.

Britain's government said in a statement that its Border Force "is making significant improvements."