Thursday, November 29, 2012

Securing the Border Against Foreign Terrorists

(This is the second part of a Border Lines series on the Border Patrol's lack of strategic focus and its continuing inability to define what it means by "border security" and to measure border security.)

The Border Patrol asserts that its main mission is to protect the homeland against terrorists and terrorist weapons. 
The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Border Patrol mission states:
We are the guardians of our Nation’s borders.
We are America’s frontline.
We safeguard the American homeland at and beyond our borders.
We protect the American public against terrorists and the instruments of terror
Inexplicably, however, the agency has never included terrorism protection as a performance indicator. Nor has the Border Patrol offered any evidence that its “intelligence-driven” border security programs actually focus on terrorists and terrorist networks. 
One likely reason that the Border Patrol does not address its counterterrorism in any detail is that the agency’s border security buildup on the southwestern border has not resulted in the apprehension of members of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, as identified by the State Department.
Experts in counterterrorism agree that there is little risk that foreign terrorist organizations would rely on illegal border crossings – particularly across the U.S.-Mexico border – for entry into the United States.
While the fear that foreign terrorists would illegally cross U.S. land borders drove much of the early build-up in border security programs under the newly created homeland security department, counterterrorism seems to have dropped off the actual and rhetorical focus of today’s border security operations.
Indicative of this reduced focus on terrorism and return to the traditional focus on illegal immigration and illegal drugs is found in the recently released 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan. There is only one reference to terrorism in the new strategy’s executive summary. In contrast, the previous Border Patrol Strategy, issued in September 2004, has thirteen such references. 
The Border Patrol offers no explanation for this stunning change in focus. Counterterrorism is still cited as the overarching goal of CBP, yet there is little in the strategy statement to demonstrate this strategic focus.
(to be continued)

Photo: Border fence in Agua Prieta with old border monument on south side of new fence / Tom Barry

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