A week ago, news outlets reported:
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the problem is worldwide, and not specific to any country, documents or visa category. She says it will stall the issuance of U.S. passports, visas and reports of Americans born abroad.
The State Department is working to correct the problem but has given no time for when a fix will be in place.
It turns out, they are still working on the problem.
Here is an excerpt from yesterday's briefing by the U.S. State Department:
QUESTION: Some of us reported about it last week.
MS. HARF: Uh-oh.
QUESTION: Well, they reported today. That’s what I remember. (Laughter.) And so the question is: What is being done? How serious is this?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Because some of the – apparently it’s affecting people who are seeking to adopt children?
MS. HARF: Well – so it’s affecting people all over the world, but let – we have talked about it a little bit. Let me give a little bit of an update. We are continuing to work to restore our visa system to full functionality. We anticipate it will take weeks to restore full visa processing capacity. We have been prioritizing immigrant visas, including adoption cases. So there is a backlog, but we are prioritizing adoption cases. So far we have been able to issue most cases with – of those cases with few delays. Nearly all passports are currently being issued within our customer service standards even despite the system problems, and we are able to issue passports for emergency travel.
Matt, you had asked yesterday – I think Matt asked about numbers --
MS. HARF: Or – right, numbers of backlog, though. To give you an idea of the progress and sort of the challenges, from the start of the operational issues on July 20th through July 28th, we issued more than 180,000 non-immigrant visas globally. Based on our average production figures, we would have anticipated issuing closer to 370,000 in that same time period.
QUESTION: All right, so –
MS. HARF: So we’re –
QUESTION: Virtually cut it in half?
QUESTION: In fact, there’s been significant improvement since the last time you updated about this – updated us about this, which was – what’s today, Thursday – which was like Monday or Tuesday.
MS. HARF: Yeah, we continue to make improvements, but there is quite a significant backlog, and we are not yet working at full functionality.
QUESTION: So – but – okay. So can you – maybe not quantify it, but if you had like some kind of a meter between when this first came an issue on the --
MS. HARF: On the 20th.
QUESTION: -- 20th, and the basically kind of catastrophic failure where everything was down, right?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And now --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- where are you on that? 50 percent? 60? 70 percent? Is there a way to --
MS. HARF: In terms of the number we’ve issued or our functionality?
QUESTION: No, in terms of functionality, right. In terms of --
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer. Let me see if I can check on that.
QUESTION: Is this an issue with Oracle?
MS. HARF: It is in part, because they are the ones that run the hardware and software, I believe.
QUESTION: And they’re dealing with it, or is this something the State Department --
MS. HARF: We are working together to deal with it. It is limited in part by our outdated software and hardware, which we are attempting to work to fix.
QUESTION: Can we move onto – I’ll let someone else --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- go --
MS. HARF: No, let’s – Matt, let’s --
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- inadvertently put out on the torture report.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
I find it amazing how willing Ms. Harf is to move away from the "glitch" to the CIA torture memo …
I can think of a millions things that might have happened with their systems before someone realized what was going on, and shut down the system. In times of non-transparency, minds wander.
Incompetence is omnipresent in government at all levels, because governments and their workers do not bear the full costs of their errors.
In this case, there is also the possibility that someone had figured out either how to manipulate the database itself, or, more likely, how to sit in between consular offices and the database, and cause U.S. passports and visas to be issued to people who should not be issued such precious travel documents.
Oracle means there was Java involved. I have seen some "enterprise" setups where clients were using some custom forms interface quickly cobbled together by "IT personnel" to interface with the database. Some such setups were so whacky that they required the clients to be running almost 10 year old versions.
I have absolutely no knowledge of what the State Department uses. I am just going on the information contained in these press releases.
Pure speculation on my part.
It is useful to watch the briefing itself. The topic comes up the 45 minute mark.