We Have the Technology
He has seven separate aliases (that we know of), and is believed to possess American, Guyanese, Trinidadian and Canadian passports as well as pilot training. He is an engineering graduate that the FBI reports attended Ontario’s McMaster University (where he sought to acquire nuclear material) as well as Al Qaeda training camps before 9/11. He speaks English flawlessly having been raised in New York and Florida where his associates included Jose Padilla and Mohammed Atta. He’s been spotted in Mexico and Guatemala involved with smuggling “Other Than Mexicans’ (or OTMs as the Americans delicately put it) into the United States. Last month, an Al Qaeda spokesman described him as the person who will deliver ‘America’s Hiroshima’. The FBI has his photograph on their Most Wanted website and have offered a $5M reward for his capture. His real name is Adnan el Shukrijumah and you might think we are doing everything in our capacity to identify and prevent this person from entering our country or gaining access to critical infrastructure. Think again.
The Canada/US border is not only largely ‘undefended’, it is also remote, and mostly unwatched. There are approximately 300 roads linking Canada and the U.S. that are without border inspection points or surveillance of any kind, from our side at least. Much of the Can/US border in Ontario as well as on our Eastern and Western coasts is defined by rarely patrolled waterways that are an open invitation to undetected illicit cross border traffic, as the people living near Cornwall can attest. We now know that of the 119 land border crossing sites that are manned, 82 of them don’t have proper internet access, and all of them lack sufficient equipment and mandate to prevent the hundreds of persons every year that deliberately blow through the border to avoid inspection and are never caught.
On the American side of the border, this casual approach to border security is but a fading memory of different times, while on the Canadian side… we’re still debating whether we should install signage and spike belts or, God Forbid, permit the pursuit of “port runners” as they’re euphemistically called.
Both examples are situations where identifiable technological and or physical ‘solutions’ exist to these increasingly serious problems. Canada is home to what is arguably the world’s most sophisticated face recognition biometrics. It works off of existing photos such as law enforcement agencies have of Shukrijumah and an estimated 200,000 security and criminal threats we don’t want in our countries or anywhere near critical infrastructure.
The error-riddled American experience with CAPPS II has aptly demonstrated how unreliable a name-based data system is – America’s Senator Ted Kennedy and ex-RCMP Commissioner Phil Murray were ‘listed.’ I can’t speak for the Senator but Phil Murray is a friend of mine, and he’s one of the good guys. Face recognition biometric systems today, on the other hand, have incredible accuracy and camera capture range capacity – and while it may not be perfect, it’s better than racial profiling or trying to decipher if that’s Mohammed with one ‘m’ or two. Besides, Adnan ain’t coming in to give us an iris scan or fingerprint as a standard to match him to.
The U.S “Secure Border Initiative” has begun the process of shining a light on its remote and not so remote southern and northern borders. Their efforts in the south are beginning to show significant results. People caught illegally entering the U.S. are held, processed and returned to Mexico or their homeland within weeks rather than the years still in vogue in Canada. The Americans understand that their land and maritime border is a place where people intent on doing them harm may seek entry and thus a place where detection, interdiction and apprehension are a priority. Their Secure Border Initiative (and SBI net) is an example of this resolve and will see a combined deployment of sensors, radar, secure wireless communication, physical barriers, unmanned surveillance and personnel for that purpose. As their success in the south increases, they appreciate the possibility of a northern scenario involving infiltrators such as dangerous criminals or illegal immigrants whom they are determined to prevent… as should we.
We should also recognize the existence of a northward flow of persons smuggling drugs and guns or demonstrating a preference for our decidedly more lenient refugee or justice system than that to the south of the 49th parallel. Proper border security is in our joint interests and, once again, Canadian surveillance and detection technology is as good as it gets. We also make top-notch spike belts and barriers, which, although decidedly low-tech, should be high priority nonetheless if we’re going to finally get serious about border runners.
Deploying security technologies such as biometrics is not the only answer to these new challenges, but they are without a doubt an important part of a solution to this great challenge that needs to be implemented now.
In his past lives, Scott Newark has served as Crown Prosecutor, Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, Special Security Advisor to the Government of Ontario and Senior Policy Advisor to the Canadian Minister of Public Safety. He is currently a security analyst and Executive Member of BORDERPOL.
© FrontLine Security 2006