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New York Times: Border Patrol Struggles To Find Smugglers' Tunnels

Image: New York Times: Border Patrol Struggles To Find Smugglers' Tunnels

(AP)

By    |   Thursday, 01 Sep 2016 03:44 PM

Mexican drug cartels have dug a large underground network of tunnels that have funneled hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs into the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol seals them up with concrete and stamps a date on them when they are shut, but the agents must stay busy in order to keep up with smugglers' progress, according to The New York Times.

Donald Trump's calls to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border  have had little success in deterring smugglers, The Times reported.

"The Border Patrol has done an incredible job, given its resources," Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, Bill Clinton's White House drug policy director, said. McCaffrey expressed doubt about the potential success of Trump's wall.

"It would be a stretch to say that the border and border communities are secure when the agency lacks a high-confidence ability to detect cross-border tunnels. No wall is going to fix that," McCaffrey said.

The Border Patrol cannot hear the digging and does not know how many tunnels there are. Experts said it could take years to develop technology to detect the tunnels, the Times reported.

More than 200 tunnels have been found along the almost 2,000-mile Southwest border. Border Patrol agents in the Nogales area said that tunnels in the area are so plentiful that the ground is "Swiss cheese."

Border Patrol tunneling expert Kevin Hecht said, "The clock is ticking as soon as they complete a tunnel. They know that we will eventually find them. But if even one load gets through before we find it, they consider it a success."

The U.S. has spent hundreds of millions in research, the Times reported. Technology such as night-vision cameras, drones, and remote-control robots have helped investigators find and arrest hundreds of smuggling suspects, and seize marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine.

One tool is a ground-radar machine that looks like a large lawn mower, the Times reported. Special agent David Shaw reported no success with the machine. "We've never found a tunnel using them," he said.

The Border Patrol is working on other solutions. They have worked with Mexican authorities to develop informants and look into suspicious activity. About half of Border Patrol agents have training to work underground.

"But you don't know what you don't know," U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said.

Underground cracks, water tables, tree roots, and caves make it difficult tell what is and is not a tunnel, geophysicist Paul Bauman told The Times.

The success of the tunnels continues to pose challenges. "Smugglers keep digging them because the tunnels work," special agent Shaw said.

Hecht, the Border Patrol tunneling expert, said he could not use past success to grade how well the Patrol is performing.

"For every tunnel we find, we feel they're building another one somewhere, and they might get more creative in concealing it. Until there is some device on the market to help us accurately detect them, we just won't know," Shaw said.

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Mexican drug cartels have dug a large underground network of tunnels that have funneled hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs into the United States. The U.S. Border Patrol seals them up with concrete and stamps a date on them when they are shut, but the agents must...
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Thursday, 01 Sep 2016 03:44 PM
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