Probe Shows Terror Risk At Mexico and Canada Borders
(AFP) A terrorist wanting to smuggle radioactive material from Canada into the United States probably would find it easy to do, a new report from congressional investigators said.
Government investigators were able to cross from Canada into the United States carrying a duffle bag with
contents that looked like radioactive material and never encountered a law enforcement official, according to a report released Thursday by investigators from the Government Accountability Office.
“Our work clearly shows substantial vulnerabilities in the northern border to terrorist or criminals entering the United States undetected,” the GAO’s Greg Kutz testified Thursday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the topic.
– Unmanned points make for easy border crossings, report says – Three times agents crossed border with fake radioactive material – Nearly 1,000 agents on northern border, 12,000 on U.S.-Mexican border
Congressional investigators looking at unmonitored US borders said Thursday they were able to freely cross into the United States from Canada carrying simulated radioactive material.
Canada’s government and US lawmakers expressed concern after the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO), the US Congress’s investigative branch, released a report on security vulnerabilities at unmonitored and unmanned Canada and Mexico border crossing.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, US lawmakers have called for a reinforcement of the US borders, especially its southern frontier with Mexico, to prevent potential terrorists from entering the United States.
“Frankly, it’s hard to believe that there has been so little progress in plugging these gaping security holes since 9/11,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the report.
The Canadian government said it was committed to enforcing border security and would continue to work closely with US authorities to prevent terrorists from crossing the border.
“Obviously we have to be concerned,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Toronto
“We work hand in glove with the American authorities dealing with any kinds of threat or potential threats,” he said, adding that Canada was adding more border guards. “So we’re doing our bit.”
GAO investigators tested border security at four unmanned or unmonitored locations in four northern US states and at three locations along the border with Mexico.
They were able to smuggle a red duffel bag with simulated radioactive material into three US states from Canada.
In one instance, an “alert citizen” tipped off the US Border Patrol about suspicious activity, but the officers never found the rental car used by the GAO investigators who carried the bag, the report said.
The investigators did not cross the border at the fourth US-Canada location. But border patrol agents never showed up when they were taking pictures of the area, an activity that border authorities said was not grounds for an investigation, the GAO said.
At the US-Mexico border, the investigators did not attempt to smuggle simulated radioactive material for unspecified “safety considerations,” but they found potential vulnerabilities, the report said.
In one US-Mexico border location, an investigator crossed into and out of Mexico, climbing over a four-foot (1.2-meter) high fence built to stop vehicles, but law enforcement never appeared, the report said.
“The possibility that terrorists and criminals might exploit border vulnerabilities and enter the United States poses a serious security risk, especially if they were to bring radioactive material or other contraband with them,” the GAO said.
US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Ronald Colburn told the Senate Finance Committee that his agency agrees with the GAO’s findings.
“The border is not as secure as it needs to be, in my opinion,” Colburn said, adding that the agency’s ability to secure the border will increase “significantly” in coming months and years as more resources become available.
He said 6,000 extra border patrol agents are being hired between 2007-2008, and that the agency is hoping to hire 1,700 more in 2009.
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