Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


US-VISIT approximate costs: $15M per criminal

Filed under: — adam @ 5:48 pm

The system has cost around $15 billion, and has caught about 1000 criminals. No terrorists, all immigration violations and common criminals.

This estimate doesn’t include lost tourism revenue, academic implications of detaining foreign students or professors, or a count of how many of those criminals might have been caught anyway.

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7 Responses to “US-VISIT approximate costs: $15M per criminal”

  1. /pd Says:

    yeah dont forget the mulitple alert systems which were all false alarms !!

  2. Marty Says:

    How many known terrorists were deterred from even trying?

  3. adam Says:

    I don’t see any tigers around… want to buy this tiger-repelling rock? It keeps tigers away. You know you want it.

    There some good discussion about deterrence in the comments of the post I linked to. The main point seems to be that no serious terrorist would ever be deterred by anything as silly as this and that the deterrence factor in driving legitimate people away from this country has cost us far more than has been saved here.

    Security is a tradeoff, and this isn’t a good one. How many more intelligence agents would $15 billion buy? How about better bomb screening equipment? Detectives on the street? But as we’re finding, the government’s idea of security is massively invasive, extremely expensive systems that have tangible secondary costs and provide marginal demonstrable utility.

    I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a justification of what exactly this is supposed to prevent.

  4. Marty Says:

    Again you can call me naive, but i think any “serious terrorist” would think twice about walking through any gate that required him to be fingerprinted.

  5. Marty Says:

    Just curious — anyone know how many bombs have been discovered by those new (and very expensive) bomb screening devices?

    I wonder how many were deterred….

  6. adam Says:

    I doubt it. My assumption would be that any “serious terrorist” would have several ways to get around this, including false fingerprints, recruiting people who aren’t on the watchlists, and simply not caring.

    Where is the deterrence effect of having the fingerprints on record of a suicide bomber who kills him- or herself carrying out a mission? Isn’t that the stated modus operandi of the people that this program is supposedly designed to catch/deter/inconvenience? Tell me how much money we’ve spent… and does the government even have a public working definition of “terrorist”?

    Moreover, they’re not monitoring people leaving the country, so I don’t really see how this would help stop someone who’s fleeing. Granted, I’m not saying they should do that either, because that would be even more invasive, again for marginal utility.

  7. Marty Says:

    The program collects digital photos and fingerprint scans of travelers’ index fingers and compares them with photos and fingerprint scans of known terrorists and other criminals on watchlists.

    You asked: “and does the government even have a public working definition of “terrorist”?”

    Yes, and apparently it’s called a “watchlist”.

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