Panel: U.S., Canada, Mexico need integrated border security system

The United States, Canada and Mexico should create a common North American security perimeter by 2010 with combined visa, visitor screening, cargo inspection and political asylum policies, the chairmen of an independent task force of former government officials recommended today.

The governments should "strive toward a situation in which a terrorist trying to penetrate our borders will have an equally hard time doing so, no matter which country he elects to enter first," the three chairmen of the Independent Task Force on the Future of North America said in a press release.

The task force was co-created in October 2004 by the New York-based think tank the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales. Former Massachusetts governor and assistant attorney general William Weld, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Manley and former Mexican finance minister Pedro Aspe co-chaired the panel.

The statement was released in Washington today, a week before President Bush meets with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vincente Fox in Texas.

The task force recommended developing a "North American community" with a common biometric border pass that would allow expedited passage through customs, immigration and airport security throughout North America.

"The governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States should commit themselves to the long-term goal of dramatically reducing the need for physical scrutiny of traffic, travel and trade within North America," the chairmen's statement said.

The chairman also recommend harmonized visa and asylum regulations, joint inspection of container traffic and "synchronized screening and tracking of people, goods and vessels, including integrated 'watch' lists," the chairmen said.

"Like free trade a decade ago, a common security perimeter for North America is an ambitious but achievable goal that will require specific policy, statutory and procedural changes in all three nations," they said.

To better coordinate law enforcement, there should be established a trinational threat intelligence center and joint training for law enforcement officials. On the defense side, the task force advises expansion of the North American Aerospace Defense Command to protect not only air approaches to North America but also maritime approaches.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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