The U.S. is at risk from invasion through its northern border, a 4,000-mile stretch of mostly unattended territory in 12 states, with the confirmed presence of a number of terrorist and extremist groups in Canada, states a report from the Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C. "The primary threat along the northern border is the potential for extremists and their conveyances to enter the U.S. undetected," the report maintains. "There is an undisputed presence in Canada of known terrorist affiliate and extremist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria." While the U.S. and Canada proudly have boasted that the dividing line between the two nations is the longest undefended international border in the post-9/11 world (there even is an International Peace Garden straddling the boundary on the edge of North Dakota), concerns over the movement of terrorists and their weaponry into the U.S. have increased exponentially--especially since it was revealed that, even before the attack on Sept. 11, 2001, an Algerian-born operative for Osama bin Laden's network was caught crossing from Canada into Washington with a truck loaded with bomb-making materials, allegedly for use in a plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. The report notes terrorists could blend into the Canadian population since 90% of Canada's residents live within 100 miles of the border but, on the U.S. side, much of the border is fronted by tens of thousands of square miles of sparsely populated forests in northern Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota. "As such, the northern border's operating environment differs appreciably from the southwest border and requires a different law enforcement approach," the report stresses. During 2007, more than 70,000,000 traveled across the border, and law enforcement agents arrested 4,000 of them and intercepted 20 tons of contraband, mostly drugs. The Department of Homeland Security had proposed that those crossing the border be required to present documents denoting the citizenship and identity when entering the U.S. from Canada, but Congress then voted to delay that plan until 2009. (U.S.A. today (magazine may, 2008) p7)
The 25% Challenge: Speeding Cross-Border Traffic in Southeastern Michigan April 2006
Douglas Doan worked in the Homeland Security Department from January 2004 to September 2005. He serves on the board of the Border Trade Alliance and is a member of the Dean’s Alumni Council at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
In November 2004, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge was tired of the almost daily complaints about long wait times for cargo and passengers trying to cross the Canadian-U.S. border into southeastern Michigan. There was good reason for these complaints. Long lines of trucks and cars queued up to cross the border as they negotiated stepped-up security processes put in place by Customs and Border Protection. While people supported improved border security, the immediate consequences were longer lines and slower transit times at border-crossing points. The average wait time for trucks and cars had increased to over 35 minutes, and it all too often exceeded two hours during peak traffic periods. Border congestion in southeastern Michigan was giving shippers, manufacturers, and importers real fits and driving up costs. With nearly $1 billion in trade crossing across the U.S.-Canadian border each day, these delays were rippling through the economy, causing an estimated $5 billion in lost productivity per year, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Over 40% of U.S. trade with Canada (our largest trade partner) crosses the border in southeastern Michigan; much of that trade was stuck in long lines at the border. Thus, in late November, Secretary Ridge called and told me to get up to Detroit and see what could be done. I was not the most senior member of the Secretary’s staff, serving as a...