What is a Passing Grade? Does Our Border Security Make the Cut?

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By Michael W. Cutler

Mike is a Senior Fellow with CAPS and retired INS Senior Special Agent. During his 30-year career with the INS he rotated through all of the squads within the Investigations Branch. He was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of the DEA and for 10 years was assigned, as an INS Senior Special Agent, to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. He has testified at numerous hearings conducted by committees and subcommittees of the House and Senate and provided testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

He hosts "The Michael Cutler Hour" on USA Talk Radio Fridays at 7 p.m. (EST) and is frequently interviewed by broadcast media on various aspects of immigration issues, especially the nexus to national security.

The writer's views are his own.

February 8, 2011
Time and again our nation's leaders have repeated what is now a virtual mantra, "In order to protect our nation we have got to get it right 100 percent of the time while, in order to succeed, the terrorists only have to get it right once." We have been hearing this refrain ever since the terrorists launched the most horrific attack on our nation on September 11, 2001. Senior members of the Bush Administration have said it and members of the Obama Administration have said it, but what does it really mean? What is our government doing to attain the unattainable: a 100 percent success rate? Certainly the citizens of our nation have witnessed a steady erosion of their expectations of privacy and freedom in the name of national security. Park your car in a garage located under an important office building in major cities such as New York and expect to be asked to open your car's trunk for inspection by security guards. Drive a truck through traffic tunnels in New York City and expect to be pulled over by Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police. The process by which airline passengers are scrutinized is becoming ever more intrusive. This is directly attributable to lessons learned about how terrorists have smuggled weapons and explosives onto airliners. However, the question remains, are we safer for all of these efforts? Are we even close to a passing grade for security? Certainly there is no such thing as 100 percent. For most high school students 65 percent is a passing grade. What is America's grade for security? Perhaps in some ways we are safer but here is the question: how safe is our nation when our borders are porous and millions of illegal aliens whose true identities are unknown and unknowable live and work in cities across our nation? Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security has told us that the US/Mexican border has never been more secure. I wonder what grade she would give security along that border that still leaks like the proverbial sieve. Meanwhile she never talks about successes in preventing boats from sailing undetected into mariners around the United States. (It has been estimated that there are more than 90,000 miles of coastal region surrounding our country.) She certainly doesn't have much, if anything to say about how secure our northern border is. The GAO, however recently had quite a bit to say about the northern border when it issued a report, last month that was entitled, "BORDER SECURITY: Enhanced DHS Oversight and Assessment of Interagency Coordination Is Needed for the Northern Border" When you read through the summary of the report that winds its way through all sorts of reasons why it is difficult to coordinate efforts to secure the border against the illegal entry of aliens into the United States, you become struck by the simple sentence that seizes your attention:
"Border Patrol--a component of DHS's U.S. Customs and Border Protection--reported that 32 of the nearly 4,000 northern border miles in fiscal year 2010 had reached an acceptable level of security and that there is a high reliance on law enforcement support from outside the border zone."
If you do the math, just under one-tenth of one percent of our nation's northern border has been deemed to have reached an acceptable level of security! Do you know of any situation where one-tenth of one percent is considered a passing grade? It would not be a passing grade for a child's spelling test in elementary school. It certainly would not be considered a passing grade for a driver's license. No one in their right mind would board an airliner if they were told that the likelihood that the airliner they were boarding had a one-tenth of one percent chance of making it safely to their destination! Yet here we are nearly 10 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and approximately 18 years since the terrorist attacks of 1993 at the CIA and at the World Trade Center and our northern border does not even amount to a speed bump. I want to make it clear that my concerns about the northern border of the United States have nothing to do with my concerns about the integrity of the government of Canada. The issue is that borders are of significance to transnational criminals and terrorists who need to traverse borders in order to accomplish their malevolent goals. Securing the border that is supposed to separate the United States from Canada would not only help protect our nation but would also help protect our northern neighbors. It is time for our nation's leaders to get serious before more people get hurt or killed. Clearly our leaders are failing us, and the failing grades are irrefutable. This is why I have come to refer to DHS as being the Department of Homeland Surrender. It has been said that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. If you look upon all of the components of what should be a coherent immigration system, you find extremely weak and all but nonexistent links. Our northern border exemplifies such a nearly nonexistent link. As I have noted on numerous previous occasions, a country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls.
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