The real stunner in the border security report

The U.S. has "an acceptable level of control" of only 32 of 4,000 miles of Canadian border

Here is the very interesting report on border security out of the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington. It says that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has “an acceptable level of control” over only 32 of 4,000 miles of border with Canada. Wow!

To be fair, the report says that there are bigger problems on the US border with Mexico – a border which “continues to experience significantly higher levels of drug trafficking and illegal immigration than the U.S.-Canadian border.” But you have to go to Footnote 1 to see what an understatement this is:

“DHS data show that in fiscal year 2009, apprehensions of inadmissible aliens along the northern border were approximately 1.3 percent of apprehensions along the southwest border, and pounds of illegal narcotics seized along the northern border were about 1.6 percent of pounds seized along the southwest border.”

Of course, the big concern on the northern border is terrorism. That is why Canada and the US border and law enforcement agencies share intelligence and partner in a variety of ways to keep the border secure.

But here is where the stunner comes: “DHS reported limited progress in securing the northern border, but processes Border Patrol used to assess border security and resource requirements did not include the extent that northern border partnerships and resources were available or used to address border security vulnerabilities. DHS action to develop guidance and policy for including partner contributions in these processes could provide the agency and Congress with more complete information in making funding and resource allocation decisions.”

In other words, DHS bean-counters were not counting Canadian beans when they concluded that there were too few beans at the border.

But they are working on it: Footnote 54 says, “According to CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol] officials, they are working to update their definitions of border security for the northern border as they explore a more accurate means to depict northern border security.  Additionally, RCMP officials stated that RCMP and CBP are collaborating on developing a joint border security assessment.”

After all, partnerships with Canada are part of their strategy:

“DHS has established partnerships with other federal, state, local, tribal, and Canadian law enforcement agencies to secure the northern border, and taken action to improve coordination among its components and across its partners. To facilitate partnerships and coordination, DHS has established various mechanisms—such as interagency forums and agreements—to improve information sharing necessary to achieve a common understanding of the border security threats and to leverage resources for achieving an integrated law enforcement response. However, it is unclear the extent to which these efforts are addressing border security gaps, and in November 2008 we reported that DHS had not linked its initiatives to the border vulnerabilities it had identified or informed Congress about additional resources needed to secure the northern border.”

Why doesn’t DHA already include Canadian role in border security when measuring the security of the shared border? Because it’s not required – and because it doesn’t help in writing funding requests:

“One reason why partner contributions are not identified and assessed is because Border Patrol guidance does not require partner resources to be incorporated into Border Patrol security assessments, or in documents that inform the resource planning process.”

Also, who knows, there is always the possibility that Canadians could just not show up for work one day:

“Another reason cited by officials for excluding partner resources is that these partners are not under the control of Border Patrol, and therefore cannot be relied upon to sustain the border security mission.”

Nonetheless, the reports conclusions — based on DHS’s partial data — succeeded in raising alarms ahead of the Harper-Obama meeting in Washington on Friday.

Senator Lieberman, who requested the report from GAO, said yesterday: “These findings, as I’ve said, should sound an alarm, an urgent call for action, to the Department of Homeland Security, to the Canadian government, to the state and local governments along the border, and of course to Congress, including our Committee on Homeland Security.”

Asked whether Canadians should have to have visas to enter the U.S., Lieberman said:

“I think it’s something that we should be talking about with our — with our Canadian neighbors. It’s an interesting question. Look, the other thing at work here is that the Canadians do have more lenient asylum and laws — immigration laws than we do here, and that potentially has an effect on us because of our border with them. On the — but again, there’s great cooperation between the two countries, and there’s nothing critical here about that.”

How about getting some better data first?

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