Tags: Border | Wars: | Canada | Wants | Trucks | Pass | Through

Border Wars: Canada Wants Trucks to Pass Through Uninspected

Monday, 04 February 2002 12:00 AM

The New York Times revealed that the Canadian government hopes to pass a new law that would result in more than 7,000 less daily inspections for "low-risk" trucks that pass through the Canadian/U.S. border.

These low-risk trucks are from recognized companies that have been screened, such as General Motors or Procter & Gamble. While there would still be security prescreening for regular freight traffic, officials contend that there will be more time to inspect possibly threatening cargo.

The Times reports that almost 90 percent of Canada’s foreign trade is with the United States, and 60 percent of that moves by truck. An estimated 6.5 million commercial trucks enter the United States from Canada annually, and 2.6 million can be considered low-risk.

These companies and their drivers are subjected to a security examination before they are given their border passes, and they are audited every 30 days.

Unlike the Canadian government, the commissioner of the United States Customs Service, Robert C. Bonner, is opposed to the plan. "We're looking at increased security against terrorists at the border, but I don't think the Canadians are looking at it the same way," says Bonner.

He does call the proposal "bold and innovative," and hopes that some elements may eventually be implemented. Now though, he’s looking for Canada to increase security against terrorists, such as by putting fences around shipping yards, or cameras on the loading docks.

However, Bonner feels that the Canadian government has different objectives, and doesn’t believe that there will be a fully integrated program in the near term.

Surprisingly, the Office of Homeland Security supports the proposal, although Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, has not spoken publicly on the matter.

A White House official defends this support as "risk management." They feel it’s more effective to let officers focus their efforts and attention on "high-risk" trucks with no corporate affiliation, rather than "the low-risk people" like the General Motors trucks.

Ridge and John Manley, Canada’s foreign minister, have been negotiating on the subject of border security, and they have agreed to have a border "action plan" in place by this summer.

The plan, which includes both American and Canadian proposals, has met with little opposition, and negotiations are proceeding smoothly. Besides the truck inspections, there are less controversial points, which have met with support.

These include a plan to station customs officers from each other's services at ports, and a proposal to expand a pilot E-Z Pass program for frequent border crossers. Like the truckers, these people would be subject to security screening and an interview before being issued their passes. "The key thing for us is to ensure that trade flows across the border as free from interruption as possible," said Manley. "We share a common challenge. We are herding cats, agencies that are all conscious of their turf."

However, Manley doesn’t agree on the subject of terrorism, stating: "You just don't find too many terrorists lurking in a load of hubcaps for G.M."

Bonner disagrees: "We have to be sure there is no likelihood that a weapon of mass destruction has been concealed in that truck. There are at least a certain number of al-Qaeda terrorists in Canada," he says. "One of them could get a job at one of these plants, and then you may have nuclear material inserted in that truck."

This scenario is not unprecedented. In December 1999, United States customs officers arrested Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian, after he crossed the border with a carload of explosives. Officials suspected that Ressam had meant to attack Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebrations.

Ridge and his office are not yet decided on this issue, and he is still in discussions with Manley. Both men have expressed frustration in their dealings with enforcement agencies. "On both sides we have these challenges," said Manley. "I hope we will have the authority to implement some of these things."

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The New York Times revealed that the Canadian government hopes to pass a new law that would result in more than 7,000 less daily inspections for low-risk trucks that pass through the Canadian/U.S. border. These low-risk trucks are from recognized companies that have...
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2002-00-04
Monday, 04 February 2002 12:00 AM
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