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The Quest for the Perfectly Secure Border

Author: Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow
February 25, 2009
Canada Watch



Andrew Speaker had at least this in common with a terrorist: he was determined not to be caught. Speaker, a U.S. citizen, had been warned by American health authorities in May of 2007 to stay at home in Atlanta after he contracted a highly-infectious, drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. But he had plans to be married in Europe, so he ignored the warning and flew to Paris. Two weeks later, after U.S. officials had tracked him down in Rome, he promised to get treatment there and refrain from traveling. Yet the next day he broke his word and boarded a flight from Prague to Montreal, where he rented a car and drove across the U.S. border at Champlain, New York. When the news broke, it became Exhibit A for those who think that porous borders remain the biggest threat to U.S. security. Congress immediately convened hearings to vent its outrage at the Department of Homeland Security. If a known TB carrier could be waved into the country across the northern border, they argued, how much harder could it be for one of bin Laden's operatives? The reaction to Speaker's sojourn was a warning about what is still to come as the mentality of "homeland security" becomes ever more firmly entrenched in Washington, despite the years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks. The administration of Barack Obama may change the nuances and nudge the priorities, but it is a worldview that is shared by Democrats and Republicans alike. And it will make life still more complicated and difficult for America's neighbours on its northern and southern borders.


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