A congressional study out today says only 32 of the 4,000 miles of border with Canada are fully secured by the U.S. Border Patrol, providing a potential pathway for terrorists to enter this country. The General Accounting Office study was released this morning by Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
"The northern border provides easy passage for extremists, terrorists and criminals who clearly mean to harm America," Lieberman said. He added while most of the nation's concern has been focused on threats from our border with Mexico, he believes lax security on the northern border is potentially more dangerous.
"To me this report is absolutely alarming. The risk of terrorist activity across the northern border is actually higher than the terror threat on our southern border."
Lieberman said he based that judgment on several factors: there are more identified Islamic extremist groups in Canada than in Mexico; the northern border has only "a fraction of the security" that is in force on the southern border; and the northern border is dotted with large population centers, which makes it harder to detect illegal activity.
Lieberman pointed to the case of the so-called Toronto 18, accused of plotting to bomb the Toronto Stock Exchange and other buildings, and a separate plot to arm themselves in order to scare the Canadian public and prompt the government to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan. Lieberman cited testimony in the case that the group planned to cross the border to carry out attacks in the U.S.
Collins said meth smugglers are already taking advantage of the lax security at the northern border: "Maine has 600 of the 4,000 mile border," she said, "and there is a growing problem with meth being smuggled into the U.S. from Canada."
The GAO report took the Department of Homeland Security to task for not effectively coordinating the many U.S., Canadian and local law enforcement efforts to secure the border, citing numerous gaps and duplications of effort.
Lieberman and Collins called for improvements, and for more federal dollars to be directed to the northern border. Lieberman said, " We ought to have systems in place that lets us know when someone comes across illegally, then we can try to catch them."