GAO Issues Report on Northern Border and Focuses on Greater Interagency Cooperation
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) April 5, 2011 – A new Government Accountability Office report found that U.S. agencies and Canadian agencies are not routinely sharing intelligence nor routinely engaging in other cooperative efforts necessary to protect the northern border between the U.S. and Canada.The border between the U.S. and Canada stretches out for roughly 4,000 miles through farmland, mountains and lakes, leaving large areas unwatched that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls a “higher” terrorist threat, according to the report. The report said that due to the limited law enforcement coverage in “vast stretches” of the northern border, these areas are better poised to be exploited by terrorists.
Canada also has active Islamist extremist groups that are not commonly found in Mexico, the report found, adding to the danger of an unsecured northern border. In addition, Canada is a major throughway for many illicit drugs, with Homeland Security confiscating over 40,000 pounds of illegal drugs and making 6,000 drug-related arrests at the northern border in 2010.
The GAO found that only 32 miles of the border – approximately 1 percent – had reached an “acceptable level of control.” The report concluded that Border Patrol agents could detect illegal activity on about 1,000 more miles of the border, but does not have the resources to respond.
The GAO found that this weakness could be mitigated with increased interagency cooperation. Border Patrol already has a partnership in place with Canadian law enforcement agencies and other partners through the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams. But the report found that information sharing between the agencies involved “needs additional work.”
“While some interagency cooperation improved, GAO found a familiar theme: problems in sharing information, resources, and inadequate management to effectively implement meaningful collaboration between agencies,” said Dallas immigration attorney Stewart Rabinowitz of the firm Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz. “While interagency forums exist, DHS must engage in meaningful oversight of agency participants and require compliance with the agreements between agencies. To date, some field agents have had to coordinate for themselves.”
The GAO recommended that Homeland Security should take the lead in improving communications between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol – the U.S. agencies responsible for keeping the northern border secure – as well as Canadian agencies.
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