GAO: U.S.-Canadian border needs tighter security

Congressional investigators easily snuck into the United States from Canada three times carrying duffel bags simulating smuggled radioactive materials, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office.

A fourth illegal crossing by the GAO team was detected by a U.S. resident and reported to the Border Patrol. However, the patrol was "not able to locate our investigators and their simulated contraband," the GAO report states.

The 13-page report describes the ease with which the investigators were able to simulate illegal entry into the U.S. from Canada. The GAO team did not attempt to enter the country from Mexico, citing safety reasons.

"Our work shows that a determined cross-border violator would likely be able to bring radioactive materials or other contraband undetected into the United States by crossing the U.S.-Canada border at any of the locations we investigated," the GAO report concluded.

The GAO did not identify the four locations along the U.S.-Canada border in which the crossings were made.

The report may draw attention to the Canadian phase of the Bush Administration's Secure Border Initiative Network, in which an electronic surveillance system is to eventually span the northern and southern land borders. Work on the first phase has already begun along a 28-mile section of the Arizona-Mexico border. The southern border alone is expected to cost $8 billion.

The electronic surveillance system is expected to offer numerous contracting opportunities for companies involved in technologies for cameras, radar, sensors, networks, integration software and systems integration.

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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