Napolitano Cancels the US $1 Billion SBInet Virtual Fence Project

SBInet II said to cost US $750 million, assembled from proven off-the-shelf technology

3 min read

Several years ago, I wrote in my blog for IEEE Spectrum that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative's SBInet, the "virtual fence" project that was supposed to build a sensor-, radar-, and camera-arrayed fence along the U.S.–Mexico border, was finished, kaput. It wasn't a matter of whether the project was going to be terminated, only when and at what final cost.

Well, finally, this January DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the termination of the project, long dead but still on life support. The obituary came after yet another US $230 million or so had been spent. To make matters worse, it was spent over the same time period that an internal DHS and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) review team was conducting a reassessment of the program, one that "incorporated an independent, quantitative, science-based 'Analysis of Alternatives' to determine if SBInet is the most efficient, effective and economical way to meet our nation's border security needs."

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How Police Exploited the Capitol Riot’s Digital Records

Forensic technology is powerful, but is it worth the privacy trade-offs?

11 min read
 Illustration of the silhouette of a person with upraised arm holding a cellphone in front of the U.S. Capitol building. Superimposed on the head is a green matrix, which represents data points used for facial recognition
Gabriel Zimmer

The group of well-dressed young men who gathered on the outskirts of Baltimore on the night of 5 January 2021 hardly looked like extremists. But the next day, prosecutors allege, they would all breach the United States Capitol during the deadly insurrection. Several would loot and destroy media equipment, and one would assault a policeman.

No strangers to protest, the men, members of the America First movement, diligently donned masks to obscure their faces. None boasted of their exploits on social media, and none of their friends or family would come forward to denounce them. But on 5 January, they made one piping hot, family-size mistake: They shared a pizza.

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