Commentary: Protecting our northern border

February 3, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Bellingham Herald.

Federal officials, at the behest of Janet Napolitano, the new secretary of Homeland Security, are reviewing the border between the U.S. and Canada to see how the operations work and if the border is secure enough.

We are glad the agency is taking our nation's northern border seriously. It is important to Whatcom County. And frankly, the Homeland Security Department, and its predecessor agencies, have always given the northern border too little attention. It's as if they don't realize that the border has more unpatrolled and undefended areas than the southern border. Or they can't seem to remember that several terrorism suspects have been arrested in Canada, or coming into the United States from Canada, but that none have been similarly arrested in Mexico or at the U.S.-Mexico border.

As a service to Napolitano and those who report to her, here are a few things we think she should know about the border in our area, what officials call the "Blaine sector."

– On Dec. 14, 1999, an alert Border Patrol agent caught Ahmed Ressam as he entered the U.S. with explosives meant to blow up some of Los Angeles International Airport. His arrest remains the only border-related arrest of an admitted terrorist connected to Al Qaeda.

Why did Ressam choose to cross into the U.S. in the "Blaine sector?" Because he knew at the time it was among the least guarded border areas in North America. There has been an additional investment in the patrol of our borders since 9-11, with new cameras, helicopters and more agents. But the border in our area remains unguarded compared to the amount of agents and equipment located on the border with Mexico.

Concern about terrorism means that must continue to improve.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Bellingham Herald.

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