Monday, March 14, 2005

Canadian Border security lax: former U.S. official

Canadian Press

HALIFAX -- Bureaucrats in Canada and the United States need to move rapidly to improve border security, given the continuing threat of terrorist attacks, a former U.S. security official said Friday.

Maj. Chris Hornbarger, who spoke at a conference in Halifax, was policy director for the U.S. Homeland Security Council, where he planned security measures for the U.S.-Canada border following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Hornbarger said the bureaucrats working on "smart border" programs -- designed to reduce border slowdowns while tightening security -- have been too cautious.

"It's too slow, it's too little, it's marginal, incremental change," said the U.S. army major, who moved from the Department of Homeland Security last year to become an instructor at West Point military academy in New York.

"We need to move much more aggressively to a shared border management regime that removes barriers internal to the continent."

Hornbarger said it took more than three years to set up a system to pre-clear cargo at the busy Detroit-Windsor border crossing.

"It's over three years since 9-11 ... If we have a major terrorist attack that uses the border as its axis of advance, Americans and Canadians will not understand that."

The Detroit-Windsor crossing is the busiest link between the United States and Canada. More than 15 million vehicles crossed between 2003 and 2004.

But increased security has resulted in backups on both sides of the border.

Hornbarger said he hopes that Michael Chertoff, who was recently appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will create a positive working relationship with Canadian officials.

He also said it's crucial that the three North American leaders discuss ways to speed up border and port security when they meet in Mexico on March 23.
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