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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Oooh, oooh!: "4 years later, U.S. still can't track visitors"

In the old "Car 54 Where Are You" TV series, Officer Toody (played by Joe E. Ross) used to start off his excited utterances with the noise "Oooh! Oooh!" and here's an article worthy of an "oooh, oooh" for what it reveals about the same illusion of security offered up by the DHS as the alleged police professionalism offered up by Car 54 - here:
Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government still can't track an estimated 3 million visitors now in the country who have overstayed their visas. Such gaping holes, security experts say, expose the nation to a constant risk even as it spends billions to maintain its borders.
Of course, that sounds bad but there is this explanation - politics is trumping security- as indicated here:
Once the system is completely up and running, US-VISIT will still enroll only a small percentage of visitors to the United States. That's because the two largest groups of border crossers, Mexicans with special U.S.-issued border crossing cards and Canadian citizens, remain exempt.
Of the 440 million people who cross U.S. borders each year, 358 million cross by car, bus, truck or foot across the land borders with Mexico and Canada.
Border guards perform a quick visual inspection of a driver's license, passport or border crossing card, which allows Mexican holders to travel within 30 miles of the border. If a driver or passenger is a non-U.S. resident from a country requiring a visa, they are further inspected.
For now, those pulled over for "secondary inspection" are fingerprinted and photographed at 50 land borders. By the end of the year, the system should be in place at all 165 crossings, Homeland Security officials predict.
Critics call the exclusion of Canadian and Mexican visitors the single largest gap in US-VISIT. Terrorists or lawbreakers can forge or steal a border crossing card or passport to enter uninspected.
"If I were going to look for a soft spot, if I were a terrorist, that would appear to be a soft spot," said Lungren, the California congressman. "It is probably too inefficient to require that of [Canadians and Mexicans], but I would say we'd better take another look."
But enrolling Canadians and Mexicans likely would anger both governments, as well as U.S. businesses that rely on a smooth flow of people and goods across the borders.
It also would require a huge investment to widen border crossings, hire new inspectors, build tollbooths, even widen bridges to keep traffic flowing.
Oh, horror, the "inconvenience" of meaningful security...the horror...

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