OTTAWA — Canada represents the greatest threat from terrorists trying to enter the United States, a top U.S. border agent told congressional lawmakers this week.
“As far as I am aware, all recent threat assessments have pointed to the northern border as the most likely point of entry into our country for terrorists,” Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told a House of Representatives’ subcommittee on national security.
Judd, who represents more than 17,000 unionized Border Patrol agents, offered no specifics in his prepared statement to the committee, hearing testimony about reforming the agents’ pay system.
Still, he warned the panel that U.S. officials must not become complacent about the dangers that lurk along the border with Canada and “the ongoing threat … to the safety of the American public.”
“In the early to mid-1990s, San Diego and El Paso were ground zero for both illegal immigration and drug smuggling,” he said. “In response, the border patrol threw all of its resources at those two areas without also strengthening the other areas of the border.”
The thinking was that Arizona’s inhospitable climate and terrain would help deter other illegal traffic from Mexico. The presumption proved wrong. But Judd said the same misguided thinking now threatens U.S. security along its northern front.
“Like Arizona, the northern border is ripe for the exploitation of not only alien and drug trafficking, but also for facilitating the illegal entrances of terrorists and those that would do this country harm.
“If we selectively limit manpower to current locations with high volumes of illegal crossings, all we have really achieved is shifting the point of illegal entry to a different location,” Judd said.
He could not reached Friday for additional comment.
The only reported incident of a terrorist attempting to enter the U.S. from Canada for an attack is the 1999 case of “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which includes the Border Patrol, is responsible for border and immigration enforcement and erecting an aggressive line of defence against Islamic terrorists slipping in from places such as Stanstead, Que., and Big Muddy, Sask.
Border Patrol agent staffing along the border has increased by more than 650 per cent — from approximately 340 agents in 2001 to approximately 2,200 agents as of July. Meanwhile, 120 land ports-of-entry are staffed by more 3,600 CBP officers and 180 agriculture specialists. As well, CBP’s Office of Air and Marine has 157 air and 111 marine interdiction agents deployed along the border.
The hardening of the 9,000-kilometre boundary since the 9/11 attacks also has enlisted radiation detectors, hidden ground sensors, security cameras and Predator unmanned patrol planes.
The crackdown at land points-of-entry has led to approximately 6,000 arrests annually, interdictions of approximately 40,000 pounds of illegal drugs each year and a flood of minor immigration charges.
But a 2009 analysis of arrest and court records since 9/11 by the U.S. Hearst Newspaper group found the U.S. government, “despite a massive injection of resources and staff to guard against terrorists crossing the Canadian border, is mostly catching ordinary illegal immigrants, creating a backlog of court cases and a flurry of protest from the public about random highway stops and bus or train inspections.”