Virus hits Federal Visa-checking system

Thursday, 25 September 2003, 10:17 AM EST

A computer virus disrupted systems at the State Department for checking every visa applicant for terrorist or criminal history, leaving the U.S. government unable to issue visas for roughly nine hours.

The virus crippled the department's Consular Lookout and Support System, known as CLASS, which contains more than 15 million records from the FBI, the State Department and U.S. immigration, drug-enforcement and intelligence agencies. Among the names are those of at least 78,000 suspected terrorists.

In an internal message sent late Tuesday to embassies and consular offices worldwide, officials cautioned that "CLASS is down due to a virus found in the system." There was no backup system immediately available, and officials said they could not predict how long the outage might last.

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