And Canadian Officials Discuss Border Security
By Joel Stashenko
Police, prosecutors and other law enforcement
officials met Tuesday to discuss toughening anti-terrorism defenses
along the United States-Canadian border from Buffalo to Lake Champlain.
The discussions attracted about 50 local and
federal officials from both sides of the 400-mile-long border. Tribal
police from the St. Regis Mohawk Indian reserve, which straddles
the U.S.-Canadian border, also attended.
"The stakes are the same on both sides," said
James Kallstrom, former FBI official and director of security for
New York state. "We both want commerce to move as efficiently and
as effectively as possible. We both want security that's efficient
and effective." The event, held at the New York State Police Academy
in Albany, gave officials a chance to meet each other face-to-face
and swap ideas about security measures that have worked and those
"I think what came out of this was that no one
agency has the resources to patrol that large a border," said Superintendent
James McMahon of the New York State Police. "What came out of it
was that the federal agencies couldn't get along without help from
the state or provincial police. By coordinating the different resources,
whether it is Canadian or U.S., state or federal, you have a much
better chance of covering this area and creating the intelligence
Gov. George Pataki encouraged the meeting.
"By working with state, local, federal and Canadian
law enforcement officials, we will develop strong and effective
border security strategies, prevent future acts of terrorism and
keep New Yorkers safer and more secure," Pataki said.
Others at the meeting were representatives of
the Ontario and Quebec provincial police; the U.S. Office of Homeland
Security; the Canadian counsel general's office; U.S. Customs agents;
Glenn Suddaby, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York;
the New York City Police Department; the Quebec Homeland Security
office and the Vermont State Police.
McMahon said Canadian officials have been stung
by criticism of their border security efforts, especially that the
Canadian areas bordering the St. Regis reserve are "totally porous."
"Reports have indicated that there are hundreds
of people coming across the Akwasasne-St. Regis on a monthly basis,"
McMahon said. "It just isn't so."
New York has been working with Quebec and Ontario
to make upgrades at the busiest border crossings, where hundreds
of commercial vehicles pass each day.
At the Peace Bridge in western New York, 721,000
commercial vehicles enter the United States each year from Canada,
according to U.S. Customs information. At the Champlain crossing
in northeastern New York, 400,000 commercial vehicles enter the
United States each year.
"It is critical to get legitimate stuff across
the border quickly," said Kallstrom, who still advises the Pataki
administration on homeland security.
Of policing the long border, Kallstrom said
it is probably not reasonable to expect that officials on either
side can guarantee that terrorists will not pass.
"But can we do a much better job than we are
doing post-9/11?" Kallstrom said. "No question we can."
The border at New York was the focus of stories
earlier this month when the FBI mounted a nationwide search for
five men with suspected terrorist ties who had supposedly been smuggled
into the United States in December. News reports had the men being
brought into the country through the St. Regis reserve.
The FBI later called off the search, however,
amid questions about the reliability of the information it based
its investigation on.
The border along western and northern New York
was a law enforcement headache long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks raised the stakes. Trafficking in illegal immigrants and
the smuggling of highly taxed goods such as motor fuel and cigarettes
have frequently been a problem across the sprawling border.
McMahon said no second meeting by law enforcement
officials was scheduled, but that there was a clear consensus for
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