Sunday, January 20, 2008

GAO finds lax border procedures weaken security

Video surveillance and investigations at U.S. ports of entry reveal significant security risks and failures, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported to Congress. As a result, serious national security weaknesses continue to plague the border inspection system at ports. The weaknesses increase the potential for terrorists, criminals and illegal goods to enter the country undetected.

Richard Stana, GAO's Homeland Security and Justice director, told Congress 'Without checking the identity, citizenship, and admissibility of travelers, there is an increased potential that dangerous people and inadmissible goods may enter the country and cause harm to American citizens and the economy. Alien smuggling organizations have been aware of weaknesses in Customs and Border Patrio's (CBP) inspection procedures and they have trained operatives to take advantage of these weaknesses.'

GAO reviewed videotapes and found numerous vulnerabilities, including CBP officers 'waving in vehicles without stopping the vehicle or interviewing the driver.' The tapes also showed motorcycles passing through inspection lanes without stopping, CBP officers waving traffic through while they were replacing another officer going off duty, and officers waving pedestrians through without looking at them, making verbal contact, or inspecting travel documents.

Despite technology to help inspect vehicles for smuggled aliens and illicit cargo, and to help check traveler documents against law-enforcement databases, CBP concluded that 'several thousand inadmissible aliens and other violators entered the country at air and land ports of entry' in just one fiscal year. Privately, CBP agents and inspectors said the number of illegal entries may be much greater than that.

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