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“I’m really concerned about this,” Miss Collins said. “This person was potentially very dangerous from a public health perspective. What if this had been a terrorist?”

Customs officials told lawmakers at this week’s hearing that they were hampered initially by their incomplete information on the traveler — a transposed date of birth and his middle name and his two surnames, maternal and paternal, the common practice among Spanish-speakers.

“The case of the Mexican gentleman with tuberculosis … is an example of that, where we can only work with as much information as we have,” Mr. Rosenzweig said.

“If the information is incomplete or inaccurate, that defeats, to some degree, our ability to conduct watch-list name matching,” Mr. Rosenzweig said.

The response did not satisfy the committee, which has opened an inquiry into the security lapse on the Mexican border.

“If a terrorist about whom we have an accurate last name and an accurate middle name and an accurate date of birth could cross 21 times, when you know it’s likely where the individual is going to be crossing, that’s a huge concern to me,” Miss Collins said.

Using only three of the four names would create tens of thousands of “false-positive” hits creating a logjam at the border crossings, Mr. Rosenzweig said.

“You know, we’ve had many, many complaints that the lines on the southern border are already too long. As the type of information we get is less and less accurate, and we widen the field to make an examination based upon the name check, we get more and more people who will be overwhelming our secondary inspection capabilities, extending the line beyond belief and inconveniencing lots and lots of people who aren’t matches for any of those,” Mr. Rosenzweig said.

Again, the lawmakers were not satisfied with the response.

“I think the public interest would have been better served if you had stopped everybody with his two last names,” Mr. Lieberman said.

Added Miss Collins: “I have no confidence that these agencies have procedures in place to adequately address the next health threat, particularly one that would put the American public in even more danger.”