A U.S. Customs computer systems malfunction stranded more than 20,000 international passengers for several hours at Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday.
The system, which contains criminal information used to screen passengers seeking to enter the United States, went down around 2 p.m. PDT and was not replaced until nearly midnight.
''That system allows our officers to make decisions on who we can allow to enter the United States,'' Mike Fleming, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman, told the Associated Press. ''You just don't know by looking at them.''
Homeland Security officials blamed the malfunction on the fiber optic cables that support the system used to process international passengers. The system was restored at 11:45 p.m., but it took Customs officials until nearly 4 a.m. Sunday to clear the last of the backlogged travelers.
Many passengers who had already spent 10 or more hours on airplanes during their flights were kept on their planes for several hours after the international terminals used for processing arriving passengers reached capacity. Airport officials said the stranded planes were connected to ground power and passengers had access to food, water and bathrooms.