Friday, September 28, 2007

Our Porous Northern Border

I've written before that we give excess attention to the question of security at the US border with Mexico, at the expense of security on the border with Canada. If our primary goal is to stop illegal immigration, obviously we must consider first the US-Mexico border. But that's not because our southern border is less secure than our northern border. The fact is the US-Mexico border is much more heavily defended and policed than the Canadian frontier. If we are concerned about security -- about someone sneaking into the US, or sneaking a device into the US -- we must increase our focus on Canada. With that in mind:

Government investigators crossed the northern border into the United States carrying simulated radioactive materials and narcotics without being stopped by authorities in recent testing, the Government Accountability Office announced Thursday.

In one case, an alert citizen notified Border Patrol agents of suspicious activity — one of the GAO investigators on the Canadian side of the border had passed a duffel bag to investigators on the U.S. side — but agents were unable to locate the investigators, “even though they had parked nearby to observe traffic passing through the port of entry,” according to the GAO report on the investigation.

At a Senate Finance hearing on the investigation, Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking Republican Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said the GAO’s findings were alarming. But Ronald Colburn, deputy chief of the Office of Border Patrol, said he was not surprised by the report. “We agree with GAO’s findings. . . . The border is not as secure as it needs to be.” But, Colburn said, “we’ve come a long way,” citing a recent decline in illegal activity on the border...

As of May 2007, Border Patrol has 972 agents on the 5,000-mile northern border and 11,986 on the 1,900-mile southern border. Colburn explained more agents are assigned to the Mexican border because “99 percent” of illegal crossings and contraband smuggling takes place on that border.

This is not an argument for reducing attention to the border with Mexico. But if you think we're safe from infiltration because of all the Border Patrol agents, the border fence (virtual or otherwise) and all the rest of that stuff we've purchased, you're wrong.

More here and here.

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