[JURIST] The US government plans to approve the first stretch of "virtual fencing" for border control, which will run for 28 miles along the US-Mexico border [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff [official profile] said Wednesday during a congressional hearing [CSH materials]. The virtual fence, part of the Secure Border Initiative [DHS fact sheet] developed to control illegal immigration and drug smuggling, includes 98-foot unmanned towers equipped with radar, sensors and cameras. Normal border patrol fences now stretch over 294 miles of the border, and Chertoff said that some of the technology used in Arizona's virtual fence may be used elsewhere along the border. Computer software glitches have delayed the testing and use of the fence [AP report] until Boeing, the technology's creator, largely fixed the problems [DHS press release] in early December 2007. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who chairs the House committee that oversees DHS, said that the system is at best marginally functional.
DHS laid out its plans to put up a virtual fence [JURIST report] along the US borders with Canada and Mexico in September 2006 and announced that Boeing had been awarded a $67 million contract [Boeing press release] to begin the project. The same month, the US House passed a bill providing for the construction of 700 miles of physical fencing along part of the US-Mexico border and also calling for a study [JURIST reports] to determine whether a fence should be constructed along the Canadian border. AP has more.